Congrats! You have taken the amazingly brave — and sometimes very challenging — step of searching for “counseling near me.” For many of us, this is the most difficult step — admitting that we could use some help managing our mental health. But you are far from alone. Millions of people seek counseling or therapy, and these days there are a myriad of wonderful options.
I personally have been just where you are twice in my life, once in my early twenties and once in my late thirties. Both times, I had reached a breaking point in my life and I knew I needed help managing my anxiety and panic disorder. Finding counseling near me felt like a daunting task — an added stress on top of the stress I was already experiencing — but both times I was successfully able to find someone to help me. And you can too!
Looking For a Counselor is a Step by Step Process
I totally understand the overwhelming feeling of starting your search for “counseling near me.” You’re not sure where you would even look, who to contact, and what the alphabet soup of credentials, qualifications, and therapy types even mean. The overwhelming feeling can make you want to stop trying before you start.
Deep breaths. You’ve got this. Starting your search for the perfect counselor will feel easier if you realize that it’s a step by step process, and if you understand each step along the way.
Remember, too, that you have choices, and that looking for “counseling near me” doesn’t have to feel like a process that is out of your control, or that you just have to “settle” for a counselor who isn’t a good fit. The idea here is to find someone you really feel comfortable with and who can help you address the specific challenges you are facing.
Step 1: Which Kind of Counselor or Therapist Do You Need?
Your first task here is to determine what kind of care you need, and what level of care is appropriate for what you are struggling with.
In general, if you are dealing with anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, relationship issues, or addiction, seeking a licensed counselor, social worker, therapist, or psychologist is appropriate. These “talk therapists” can help you unpack your feelings, notice patterns, and suggest methods for managing your emotions.
If you are dealing with a more serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, psychosis, or borderline personality disorder, a psychiatrist or a psychologist with specific training in your disorder may be more appropriate. A psychiatrist is also the only clinician who can prescribe medication, so if that is something you need, you may consider seeing a psychiatrist. Note that many psychologists will work in collaboration with your psychiatrist if medication seems necessary.
Step 2: Breaking Down Credentials and Counseling Types
But what about all the various credentials out there? Let’s say you have decided that seeing a “talk therapist” is right for you. Should you see a licensed professional counselor, a licensed social worker, or a psychologist? What’s the difference?
There are many different types of therapists and counselors, and licensing varies from state to state. You want to make sure the counselor or therapist you choose is licensed to practice in your state. Once you’ve determined that, you are in good shape. Choosing a licensed practitioner means that your counselor or therapist has achieved the highest level of training in their profession and has spent thousands of hours in a clinical setting under supervision.
The most common counseling licenses include:
- Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC or MHC)
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC)
The most common social work licenses are:
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
- Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
Other well-known licenses include:
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT or MFT)
- Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)
- Ph.D. in Psychology
Counselors, social workers, and psychologists specialize in many different therapy modalities, including:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- Psychodynamic therapy
You can take some time to research the different therapy types of therapy available to determine which might fit your needs. If that sounds too confusing or overwhelming, you can get a feel for your counselor or therapist’s approach when you speak with them. Most therapists these days take a more holistic approach, drawing from different theories and approaches, meeting each client where they are.
Step 3: Online or In-Person Therapist?
The first time I began my search for a therapist, there was no such thing as online therapy, at least not as it exists now. Once I found my therapist, I spent almost a decade trekking to her midtown Manhattan office for weekly sessions. But when I became a busy mother of two, it was no longer so easy to make the appointments or find the time to get to them.
My second therapist, who I have been seeing for a few years now, is an online therapist. For me, and many others, online therapy offers all of the perks of traditional therapy, including licensed therapists with top-notch experience and expertise, combined with the flexibility and convenience of having your therapy sessions happen on your own time, without even having to leave your home.
Everyone is different in terms of what they need and what they feel most comfortable with, but I suggest checking out both traditional and online therapy as you search for a counselor or therapist near you.
Step 4: How To Search for “Counseling Near Me”
OK, so now that you know what you are looking for in a counselor, where can you find a good counselor you can trust?
One of the difficult things about searching for a counselor near you is that counselors generally don’t have their own websites with client reviews on them. So you need to look through various
lists and searchable databases.
Your best bet is to search through professional psychological organizations, where you will be able to view different counselor or therapist “listings.” You may be able to see a photo of the counselor or therapist as well as their licenses and specialties.
Trusted organizations you can look into include:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- American Psychological Association (APA)
- Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies
You may also want to ask for a list of counselors and therapists from your insurance company. The problem here, of course, is that insurance companies usually only give you names but not much background information. You may be able to look up the suggested counselors or therapists in one of the databases above and see if you can glean more information about the therapists who would accept your insurance coverage.
If you are looking for an online counselor, you will be able to view various profiles of suggested counselors that meet your criteria on the platform as well as the specialties you are looking for. When I selected my online therapist, I was able to see a picture of her (this was actually very helpful to me!), and what the types of therapy she had expertise in, as well as what her areas of interest were. This painted a clear picture of who she was, and it helped me narrow down my search.
Step 5: Interviewing and Selecting Your Counselor
Whew! You’re almost there. You’ve selected one or more possible counselors and now it’s time to “meet” them.
For many of us, this is actually the most nerve-wracking part of the process. But remember that you are interviewing your therapist, not vice-versa. This is about you finding someone you feel comfortable with — someone who will listen to you without judgement.
I remember all those years ago, calling a short list of therapists that had been provided to me by my insurance company. The first counselors I called seemed brisk and business-like. I knew my therapist was the one for me just by the gentle way she was able to answer my basic questions and help me make an appointment. I felt better just hearing her voice, so I knew she was right for me.
It was a similar experience with my online therapist. Even in her introductory message, I was able to tell that she had the right blend of compassion, humor, and gentleness that I needed at that time in my life. She was able to answer my initial questions in a kind, calming way that made me feel immediately at ease — and I knew she was “it.”
I truly believe that all of us have the “right” counselor or therapist just for us, and following your instincts will serve you well. Keep in mind, too, that you have a choice here. If at any point, you feel that your counselor or therapist isn’t right for you, you can try someone else. With Talkspace online therapy, transitioning to a new therapist is a seamless process — a one-click process — with no extra work. You should only seek counseling with someone who you feel comfortable with and who offers you the tools you need for healing.