I need a counselor! (“Got any bright ideas?”)

These days, it’s become so common to say or hear the words, “Why don’t you get some counseling?” Hey, being a sufferer and a counselor – I’m all for it. But for someone who’s seriously considering seeing a psychiatrist or a counselor for the first time, procuring help can be challenging. So let’s begin a series on finding professional help for an emotional or mental health issue.

My recommendation has always been to first focus upon finding a qualified and licensed counselor, social worker, or therapist (for the purposes of this post we’ll consider them synonymous). She will be your point-person in getting your situation assessed and managed.

If you’ve made the right choice, your counselor will be of great assistance in dealing with the psychological aspects of your disorder. And, if indicated, she can offer a referral to a psychiatrist and other medical professionals, including your own, to get the potential biological contributors to your disorder assessed and under management.

Though it may seem a daunting task, finding a counselor isn’t so hard to do. If you have health insurance, getting connected is based upon whether you have an HMO or PPO. If you have an HMO, look on the front of your insurance card and call your chosen physician or medical group. Tell them you’d like to get a list of in-network counselors and don’t hesitate to ask for areas of specialty. And, of course, you’ll want to inquire about referral procedures. By the way, this would be a good time to verify your mental health benefits.

If you’re insured through a PPO, take a look on the back of your card and you’ll more than likely find a number for mental or behavioral health services. Make the call and follow the same procedure I just detailed. If your employer provides an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), get in touch with them for additional assistance.

Now, if you don’t have health insurance, or if you do and the mental health coverage is either poor or non-existent, don’t give up the ship. There are many counselors who would be willing to bill on a sliding scale based upon your income (or lack thereof), or work with you on a comfortable payment plan. Some even do pro bono work. Indeed, the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics states…

“Counselors contribute to society by devoting a portion of their professional activity to services for which there is little or no financial return (pro bono).”

If that isn’t going to work for you there are a variety of state, county, and non-profit agencies that, as the Rolling Stones offered, can come to your emotional rescue. Check-out the phone book or Internet under the government listings, as well as under the heading, “Counselors.”

Additional rich sources for referrals are friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, clergy, and physicians. Not only can they give you some names, but they may also be able to provide information regarding the counselor’s areas of specialty, as well as their therapeutic style and preferences.

Another good source for detailed information on counselors can be found on the Internet. Pull up your favorite search engine and type in “find a therapist.” Bammo! Lots of websites designed to help you do just that, some offering very detailed and important practice information, will appear.

Will you join us for Part 2 in the series as we discuss the actual mechanics of scheduling the first appointment? Good.

How ’bout some comments regarding personal experiences with finding help?