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Considering Counseling

What is Counseling?

In counseling (also referred to as therapy, psychotherapy, and talk therapy), a mental health professional works with an individual, family, group, or couple. Counselors don’t prescribe medication but provide a safe, caring, and confidential environment to explore feelings, behaviors, or beliefs, work through challenges, and work towards desired goals.

Some counselors have training in a specific therapeutic approach. Some examples include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Everyone needs more support from time to time. Below are some signs that indicate that you may benefit from a mental health professional:

  • You’re feeling overwhelmed with sadness or anger that impairs your ability to function
  • You’ve faced trauma or abuse and are having trouble coping
  • You’re having harmful thoughts
  • You’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition

What is a Mental Health Professional?

Mental health professionals offer services focused on improving mental health and treating mental disorders. They have varying levels of education; some common mental health professionals include social workers, counselors, therapists, and psychologists. These professionals have completed the required training for a license or credential within their field. Common licenses include LAC, LPC, LMFT, CSW, and CSW-PIP.

Where is Counseling Provided?

  • Private Practice – typically for-profit; mental health professionals with their own offices and who set their own schedules
  • Community Agencies – non-profit agencies or mental health centers that provide a broad range of mental health services
  • Behavioral Healthcare – health facilities offering behavioral health services along with other medical care
  • Telehealth Mental Health Services – online or phone-based counseling provided by a mental health professional

How to Find the Right Fit?

Some things to consider while searching for a counselor or therapist:

  • What type of help are you seeking and what results do you hope to see?
  • Cost of services:
    • Do you have health insurance? If so, what mental health services does it cover?
    • Does your employer offer services through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?
    • Will you need services at a reduced cost? Some mental health professionals offer “sliding fee scale” that allows you to pay for services based on your income.
  • Some providers allow for phone consultation prior to your first appointment. This provides an opportunity to ask about their specialty and area of expertise.
  • Remember: Finding the right counselor or therapist is like finding a good pair of shoes. Sometimes you have to try on a few before you find the right fit.

For more information on counseling options, check out one of our Mental Health Guides (which includes for profit and non profit pracitioners). Or, call 211 and search our online database:

    • Use the following keyword search terms:
      • Individual Counseling
      • Conjoint (Couples) Counseling
      • Family Counseling
      • Group Counseling
      • Internet Counseling
      • CBT
      • DBT
      • EMDR
      • Mental Health Expense Assistance (for sliding fee scale providers)


 Disclaimer: This HelpSheet is developed by the Helpline Center. HelpSheets provide a brief overview of the designated topic. For more information, call 211 or text your zip code to 898211.

Updated: July 2020

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