Angie's LIST Guide to
Personal counseling

If you want to improve your life, seeking personal counseling can be an extremely valuable experience. Counseling gives you expert guidance in a supportive, confidential setting, it can help you to work through issues and it can help you become better adjusted and more confident.


Individuals having a hard time coping with various circumstances can often find the help they need working with a counseling or mental health professional. A variety of specialists are available to provide individualized care for specific needs.
Individuals having a hard time coping with various circumstances can often find the help they need working with a counseling or mental health professional. A variety of specialists are available to provide individualized care for specific needs.

When to seek counseling

Personal counseling helps you work through issues that are preventing you from the life you want. With this type of counseling, you work one-on-one with a trained professional to solve problems, make decisions and set goals for your life. You learn how better coping strategies for any problems or issues that may enter your life.

Indicators that you should seek counseling include stress and anxiety, an inability to focus and concentrate, trouble sleeping because of high emotion, and concern that you may become abusive to yourself or others. Common issues that lead people to feel these ways are family and relationship problems, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, the death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse and worries concerning career and education.

You should never wait until you are feeling completely hopeless to seek counseling. Counseling is normally covered under most medical insurance plans. If you don't have health coverage, many counselors may offer you a payment plan, sometimes on a sliding scale. Counseling can be less expensive at a mental health facility than through a private practice.

How counseling can help

A counselor works with you to discover the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are causing your problems and helps you to work through them. He or she will also  teach you better coping and communication skills to help handle the issues over which you don't have control. Sometimes personal counseling benefit you simply because someone is listening to you and helping you see your life in a new way. Often, the help of a supportive, experienced professional can help remedy your issues.

Note, however, that a counselor can only appropriately help you if you are as open and honest with that person as possible. Counseling is a joint effort between you and the therapist, so you must be an active participant. The more your counselor knows about you, the better he or she can help you.

Once, people who sought counseling bore a stigma about receiving treatment for mental and emotional issues. Today, you should not feel any shame or let this bother you. Unless a counselor believes you are a danger to yourself or others, everything you communicate to him or her is completely confidential. Counseling can be wonderfully beneficial to you as it works to help you achieve personal success, improve your self-esteem and your personal outlook, build better relationships with others and learn how to make more informed choices.

Choosing the right counselor

If you have a primary care physician, you may first want to ask your doctor for a referral. You can also check with your local hospital, a crisis hotline and community mental health agencies. Angie's List is also a fantastic place to find member reviews and ratings of counselors in your area.

Most states require that a counselor hold a master's or doctoral degree in counseling or a related field. Counselors are usually required to be licensed in the state in which they work. To obtain a license, they will normally need to have supervised clinical experience and they will have to pass an examination. You should meet only with a counselor who has the appropriate credentials. You may want to consider how many years that person have been working in his or her area of expertise. When narrowed your list to possible counselors, you should make sure to look for reviews from other clients or patients. If a counselor is licensed, you can find out if there are any complaints filed against them with the health or medical board in your state.

At first, you may feel uncomfortable talking with a counselor, and this is normal. However, if you spend several sessions in counseling and you do not believe they're effective, it is fine for you to seek out another individual. Counselors have different approaches and styles, so one may work better for you than another.


Looking for the RIGHT counselor locally for my daughter & husband. How do I go about screening for the right counselor?

Hi Sharon,

Just like choosing a contractor, you can interview potential health care professionals. Essentially, you're hiring them and entrusting them with your most valuable asset - your life! Here are several articles that suggest questions to ask at a consultation and tips on how to go about finding the best medical professional for you and your family:

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