What You Need to Know Before Choosing a Counselor in Washington DC

Although one in five adults in the United States experience mental health issues, only about half seek treatment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. There are countless factors discouraging potential clients from seeking treatment—from cost to limited openings and access—but it doesn’t help that finding a good therapist can feel overwhelming.

Whether you’re starting your search for the first time or looking to restart appointments after some time away, here are some questions to ask yourself before starting therapy in Washinton DC — a city with leading therapists.

Counseling in Washington DC

What type of mental health professional is right for you?

Although the term “counselor” is often used interchangeably with “therapist,” counselors are just one type of mental health professional that offers mental health services. If you’re new to therapy, consider researching different types of mental health providers to figure out what kind of professional best fits your mental health needs. Here’s some information to help you get started:

  • Psychologists earn a doctoral degree in clinical psychology or counseling psychology or another specialty, such as education. They have clinical experience evaluating mental well-being, making diagnoses, and providing therapy services. Some psychologists might have knowledge of principles related to specific types of therapy, such as psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy.
  • Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors. They can diagnose mental illness, provide therapy, and manage medications. Some psychiatrists have additional education in adolescent behavioral problems, affective disorders, drug addiction, and other related fields. Most psychiatrists focus on helping people find the proper medications for their mental health needs.
  • Social workers are trained to evaluate mental well-being, provide therapy, and assist in case management and advocacy services. Some social workers also undergo special training in crisis intervention and crises.
  • Counselors and clinicians earn a master’s degree and are trained to evaluate mental well-being based on specific training programs. They operate under various job titles—including licensed professional counselor (LPC), mental health counselor, school counselor, substance abuse counselor, marriage counselor, and career counselor. 

Ready for an appointment?

Why are you seeking mental health care?

Before scheduling your first counseling appointment, you should set aside some time to consider your goals. Ask yourself why you’re seeking counseling services, what you’d like to get out of your counseling sessions, and how your therapist can help you reach those goals. By setting mental health goals, you can spend your time better in therapy and set yourself up for success.

If you’re not sure how to start, consider what specific problems affect your quality of life. Some examples of mental health issues that might lead you to seek therapy include:

  • You’re constantly late to work because you’re experiencing substance abuse.
  • You experience intense anxiety symptoms when navigating difficult situations, for example, when settling disputes between co-workers.
  • You have trouble focusing your full attention and mastering time management skills at work.
  • You’re neglecting your personal care due to depression.
  • You avoid trying new things because you’re afraid of others’ reactions.

Counseling can help you improve your interpersonal relationships, overcome dependencies, and work toward your specific goals. No matter what you’re going through, your counselor can help you realize your strengths and establish the best treatment plan.

What are you looking for in a counselor?

It’s important to find a mental health professional that you feel comfortable with. When you establish mutual trust with your therapist, you’ll have an easier time discussing difficult emotions, behaviors, and thoughts that arise during your therapy sessions.

If you’re nervous about starting counseling or discussing treatment plans, you might want to search for an experienced counselor who offers a more guided approach. On the other hand, if you’re a seasoned therapy client, a direct approach might be the best option.

No matter what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to ask potential therapists about their licenses, specialties, education, and certifications. At the end of the day, you want to work on your mental well-being, and you need a counselor with the required skills and experience to help you do that.

Some questions you might ask during your initial consultation include:

  • What are your strengths and limitations as a counselor?
  • Why did you choose the counseling profession?
  • What’s your general philosophy toward counseling?
  • Do you offer [marriage counseling, career counseling, etc.]?
  • Do you offer financial aid for clients without health insurance?
  • How many clients have you had with similar circumstances as my own?

If you’re searching for a career counselor, it might also be helpful to ask whether they offer additional resources for the job search process, employment growth, and developing interpersonal skills.

Compassionate, Experienced Counseling Services in Washington DC

Regardless of your long-term goals, a willingness to seek professional help is the first step toward feeling better. Whether you’re experiencing anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic or struggling to figure out your career plans, working with a qualified counselor can help you define your goals and find the support you need.

To start your journey toward mental wellness, reach out to a mental health professional through the Therapy Group of DC. We know that starting counseling can feel intimidating, and our counselors have years of experience helping clients navigate their mental well-being. From scheduling an appointment to learning healthy coping skills, one of our compassionate counselors will help you every step of the way.

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