Timothy Miller Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

Shopping For a Counselor

Shopping for a counselor presents many of the same dilemmas as shopping for a mechanic, dentist, or attorney. You want to find someone honest, competent, and respectful of you, the customer. You don't want to pay more than you have to. In all of these cases, it's hard to know how to choose. Every profession contains a certain number of dishonest, rude or incompetent practitioners.

If you search for a counselor in much the same way you would search for a good mechanic or dentist, you probably won't go wrong. Ask friends and relatives who they recommend. Ask for recommendations from your physician, attorney, or other responsible people in the community.

Once you have a few names on your list of candidates, don't be shy about making inquiries. "What are your credentials?" "How much experience do you have with my kind of problem?" These questions, and others like them, are NOT out of line. Counselors shouldn't try to counsel you over the telephone, but most good counselors will answer questions like these over the telephone. Counselors cannot give you names of satisfied clients the way a mechanic or accountant could, because we have to respect our clients' privacy. Many counselors will give you professional references, if you ask.

If the first counselor you find is not for you, you will probably still have to pay for the appointment, or bill your insurance company for the appointment. That may seem unfair. On the other hand, you still pay your mechanic or dentist even if you decide to go to someone else next time. Additionally, counselors who offer free initial consultations may feel too much pressure to tell you what you WANT to hear, instead of what you NEED to hear, so you'll come back. That's not in your best interest.

On this WWW site, I've tried to provide most of the information a prospective client would want to know. I'll do my best to answer additional questions by email or telephone. To be sure that we are a good match, we will have to meet face-to-face at least once. If you feel ready, don't hesitate to call the number above to make an appointment.

After you have gotten started with a new counselor, these are the signs that you have a good working relationship with a counselor. He or she:

  • Listens with interest and concern
  • Neither talks too much or too little
  • Offers helpful comments without trying to run your life
  • Establishes a comfortable atmosphere in which you feel at ease
  • Renews and maintains your hope
  • Understands your particular problems
  • Offers helpful treatment methods
  • Gives clear and honest answers to your questions about diagnosis, prognosis, length and cost of treatment, and so on

I hope I meet all these standards on every visit with every client, but there are probably times it doesn't go that well. Not every counselor is right for every client.

Sometimes you may become dissatisfied with a counselor you have been seeing for some time. If this happens, first let your counselor know about your dissatisfactions. Perhaps he/she can make adjustments. In some cases, talking out misunderstandings with your counselor is an essential part of the treatment process. If things don't improve, a good counselor will supportively discuss alternate treatment methods and possible referrals to other counselors.