Before beginning any counseling relationship, I schedule a free 30 minute consult with potential clients.
I do this for a number of reasons, but the main one is I know how important a good relationship between counselor and client is, and how much it impacts the success of our work together. In a counseling relationship, you should feel safe to share your most vulnerable thoughts and feelings, and supported in your efforts to shape your life in the direction you want it to go. It’s my firm belief that my clients can’t know if they will feel safe and supported without having the chance to meet and talk with me first.
Luckily, many therapists in Portland, Oregon feel the same, and offer an initial consult, either in person or on the phone, free of charge. But how do you decide which therapist is right for you? Here are a few things to consider as you explore your options…
What’s worked in the past? If you’ve had any experience with counseling before, now is a great time to sit and reflect on what worked well for you, and what didn’t. In what ways did you get along with your past counselors? Were there any particular things they did that were helpful? How did you feel with them? Was there anything they did that you disagreed with or found unhelpful? Were there certain things you found yourself holding back in your sessions, and why?
What types of people do you confide in? Do you have an especially trusted friend in your life that you can tell anything to? If so, what are their qualities? What types of people are you most drawn to in general, and do they push you towards positive growth? It can be helpful to evaluate if the people you surround yourself with match what is most helpful for you. If you typically hang out with people who are always supportive but never speak up to challenge you in healthy ways, you may consider finding a counselor who can provide that challenge. If the people in your life claim to want the best for you but you feel unable to be yourself, or overly criticized, you may look for a counselor who helps you to feel seen and validated, and builds up your sense of self-worth.
What’s your personality like? If you are rational, or tend to make decisions based on logic, you may be drawn to the linear and clear-cut methods of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). If you are a feeling person who leans into their intuition, you may enjoy methods like Hakomi, that seeks to bring out the voice of your inner wisdom, or other mindfulness and body-centered methods. If you are a blend of practicality and intuitive, you may enjoy methods that blend mindfulness and the cultivation of inner wisdom with structured and practical tools and strategies, such as Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Or, you may choose a counselor who is capable of integrating and balancing the valuable aspects of many different methods, in a blend that works right for you.
Finally, it’s important to consider all the important logistical details of starting a counseling relationship. If it’s possibility this relationship may be long term, it’s important to make sure it will be a sustainable choice for the future. Consider how you feel in your counselor’s office. Will you be comfortable there, and do they have a suitable setting to allow you to consistently access their services (ADA accessibility, gender neutral restrooms). Consider your transportation capabilities and if their location is accessible to you. What about their fees for service? Are you financially able to afford their rates or do they take your insurance? Are they able to bill out-of-network or provide receipts for reimbursement? If your insurance won’t cover their services and you are on a budget, are they able to offer sliding scale options? Do they have training and knowledge in specific areas that you may need support in, either now or in the future?
Choosing a counselor is one of the most personal and important choices a person can make. Only you can decide for yourself what that right choice is. Listen to your inner voice (whether it be logical, intuitive, or wise) and don’t be afraid to speak your needs and advocate for yourself. On your journey to finding yourself and creating the life you want, you deserve the best possible companion by your side.