Notes about Counseling


The importance of having a good counselor cannot be overstated. A good counselor is a lifeline.

However, it’s a very delicate situation. Not only do we hope for a good therapist, but there needs to be some degree of a connection. We’ve learned a patient needs to like or feel comfortable with a counselor. Quite a combination of personalities, relationships, skills, and effort come together to foster health and healing.

It requires so much strength, courage, and energy to enter into counseling. Upon entering, we carry such hope– it can be crushing when it is not a good match. And unfortunately, it is exhausting to make a counseling change. It can be incredibly intense for our children– and for us, when we are walking through this with them– beginning again, reliving and sharing the past, bringing a new counselor into the present situation, asking questions, trying to get to know each other…

Over the years, we wasted much time and money on counseling for our daughter that didn’t help. Unbeknownst to us, we spent much time with a poor counselor. We’ve had counseling disconnects, counseling misdiagnosis, a counselor who moved away at a critical time, a counselor in over his head, and even a counselor who fired us!

No wonder people can be reluctant. No wonder, in spite of terrible pain, that people choose not to go. Understanding this can build our sense of compassion, yet our caring hearts comprehend we must continue to seek help for our children. We must press on.

When our daughter agreed to get back into counseling (as a young adult) her grief and illness depleted her of energy, so she counted on us to search for a therapist. Numerous phone calls and telephone interviews ensued — most counselors were very gracious about phoning us back and answering questions. Education on mental illness, treatment, and specific therapies proved helpful in identifying our needs. We had other concerns to weigh, as well, and created a checklist chart to facilitate the process. After briefly explaining our daughter’s struggle and most recent diagnosis, we asked about specific types of therapies utilized, if the therapist had evening hours, and phone accessibility. And, of course, we asked the insurance and payment questions. (Some counselors offer sliding scale fees.) Additionally, we considered geography, because frequent sessions that involve leaving work or children, etc., coupled with a lengthy drive could eventually prove a hindrance to keeping appointments.

Two other things to consider regarding counseling:

  • If we are uncertain about any diagnosis or treatment plan, we must trust those instincts and be tenacious. We know our own children. It can be tiring, but we might need to consult with more than one care provider, or ask more questions.
  • If our children are minors, they will be meeting with the counselor privately. In our experience, the parents are generally included at the beginning or the end of the session to be updated or informed of progress. Once our children are over 18, it is up to them to include us, and to sign paperwork that permits the counselor to speak directly with us. Bear in mind, most counseling offices have a provision for a family appointment, which will not jeopardize counselor/patient confidentiality, but permits opportunity for family members to learn what can be done at home to support and encourage their loved one.

So how do we know if we have a good counselor? We have one now, and what a difference it has made!

We believe every resource for finding a good therapist is vital. However, we found very little information on this subject. We are so pleased to have an article written for us by guest contributor, Dr. Julia Ahrens. We feel it is very important, and invite you to read it.