Finding A Good Counselor

Because I’m a clinical psychologist, neighbors, friends, colleagues, even strangers often ask me: “How do I find a ‘good’ counselor or psychologist in my area?” Actually, finding a positive client-therapist match is far easier than you might think by following these simple steps:

1. Since you will probably use your health insurance benefits, your company is responsible for providing you with names of “allowed” psychotherapists.

TO DO: Ask for doctoral-level psychotherapists who are psychologists. Ask for both male and female psychotherapists, who practice full-time in your town or city.

2. Call the phone number on the back of your health insurance card for information about the approved list of providers, or visit the insurer’s web site and conduct your own search.

TO DO: On the web site, enter a few key search words that fit your situation, such as “feeling down,” “anxious,” “relationship/marriage difficulties,” “parenting issue,” “anger,” “divorce,” “alcohol,” etc. to match your problem with a professional in your region.

3. Make sure to mention if you would prefer a male or female counselor or psychologist (or other qualities) that matter to you.

TO DO: There are typically many qualified people with all sorts of training, age, race and personal backgrounds to choose from, so be picky. I prefer the most highly trained, or “doctoral level providers.” Don’t be confused: Psychologists are “talk doctors” and psychiatrists are “pill doctors.”

4. Don’t restrict your search too much by travel time.

TO DO: Usually you will be asked your zip code, and number of miles you are willing to travel to an appointment. I suggest that you ask for a dozen names of “doctoral-level providers” who are within 15 miles of your home/work location. However, keep in mind that proximity shouldn’t be your only factor for choosing. Personally, I would drive an hour to meet with a skilled talk therapist or counselor who enjoys working with my type of case, likes what he/she does and gets results.

5. Once your preferences are known, the insurance company will fax or e-mail a list of computer-made matches based on your needs.

TO DO: Worry not, nor feel overwhelmed. Many of these names will be unknown to you. However, if you recognize a name because you’ve read an article or heard a lecture by that person, put a check mark by the name. Interacting with the community is important. Now the fun begins!

6. Call the therapist’s office to gather some firsthand information.

TO DO: You will quickly get a “feel” for the “business attitude” of the practice. For example, does a “live” person answer the phone? Is your call returned within 24 hours? Are you received courteously and positively? Does the office work with your type of situation? Is this the full-time job of the doctor/counselor? Can you obtain an appointment in a week or two? Can you speak briefly with the counselor before the “initial interview” to get a feel for his or her therapy style?

7. If you determine you have reached a positive office, establish an appointment, then ask if you can fill out the necessary paper work before your appointment.

TO DO: Also ask if a payment/co-payment is expected at the end of the first meeting. Give 24 hours cancellation notice out of courtesy if you can’t make your appointment.

8. Appear at your appointment with an idea of the positive change goals you wish to achieve.

TO DO: Just be open, and answer honestly. Feel free to interrupt, and ask questions. Most people enjoy the process. Please know that good counselors want motivated clients who are open to change.

9. By the end of your first 45-minute meeting, if you feel uncomfortable instead of relieved, than you might not have a good therapist-client match.

TO DO: If so, try a different office rather than suffer in silence. You will probably find a satisfying match by the second try.

10. In some cases, you may prefer to be a “private pay” or “self-pay” patient so your medical information is strictly controlled by you.

TO DO: If you pay the therapist directly without filing any insurance forms, there will be no official insurance record of your visits, and you alone will be in-charge of the treatment process.


You should feel better pretty fast. Many communications clients scold themselves for waiting too long before coming in. You’ve got nothing to worry about!


Counselors who won’t talk openly about your needs and goals, compliments and complaints, money or payment options might not talk openly about other “sensitive” issues. Remember, good communication is a two-way highway. So get going — and good luck! You are going to love the results, and, by the way, you should see positive results within a few sessions!


Dennis O’Grady is founder of New Insights Communications and a professional psychologist who understands that the best kind of talking, counseling and therapy is the kind that establishes good communications skills and focuses on change….change for the better, change for the future, change that helps the world go forward instead of spinning and spinning in place.

Dr. Dennis O’Grady provides executive coaching and professional development training in Ohio and surrounding states. Dennis is the author of “Talk to Me: Communication Moves to Get Along with Anyone” which is a leadership training and positive relationship workbook.

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