If you are attending college, you may be able to seek help from a counseling center on your campus. If employed, many businesses offer an EAP, Employee Assistance Program, that offers free counseling sessions and referrals if needed. If you are willing to ask around, most people are eager to offer their opinions on the quality of services they've received. Online reviews, such as those on HealthGrades, provide you with a sample of other patients' opinions. However, remember that therapy occurs in a relationship. Sometimes you find a great match right away, and sometimes you need to keep looking. Many counselors are willing to have a brief phone conversation with potential clients before a first visit is scheduled, so don't be afraid to ask office staff if this is possible.
Prior to your first counseling appointment, you will likely be provided general information and insurance forms to complete. Your therapist will review this information, explain the counseling process (which can look very different depending on the theoretical orientation of your counselor), discuss the limits of confidentiality, and usually conduct a thorough clinical interview of your history, psychological symptoms, and personal goals for treatment. Sometimes this process of carefully collecting information from you takes a second session as well.
For many people, financing counseling is a concern. In general, if you have access to a mental health providers list from your insurance, it is most cost effective to consider those who are in network with your plan. Many agencies have sliding scale fees if finances are a concern, but it's best to check on insurance benefits with the counseling office before you schedule your session. If you do not have insurance and counseling is not a benefit that is provided through your college or workplace, you can contact your local Community Mental Health. In Grand Rapids, the contact is Network 180.
Most agencies will consider requests and try to link clients with a therapist that best fits the client's needs and preferences. If you have been referred to see a particular therapist, be sure that the office staff scheduling your appointment are aware of the specific referral.
It is possible that you might not like your therapist. Most people don't marry the first person they date, but before you bail out of the relationship, it's best to reflect on your feelings. Do you have a pattern of quitting when situations become challenging? Do you dislike the therapist, or is therapy hitting a difficult, painful stage you'd rather avoid? If so, try asking your therapist about taking a step back and preparing you more for the next stage. If it is determined that the relationship with the therapist is truly not a good fit, you have the option of requesting another therapist or pursuing one independently.