How to Find a Counselor & What to Expect

Willow Creek | August 4, 2022

If your need is urgent, call 911 for emergency services or 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, or find a local hospital with mental health crisis services, especially if you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else. Whatever you are experiencing, immediate help is available to you. You are not alone. 

Most of us would benefit from sitting down and talking with a licensed therapist, counselor, or social worker. Therapy is not just for a crisis; if you seek help now, no matter your circumstance, it will pay dividends in the long run. Therapy can be an essential part of self-care, and a professional counselor will assist in keeping you accountable for your goals. So, how do you find a counselor, and what can you expect from your visits?

Here is a three-step guide on how to find a mental health counselor and make the most of your visits with them.

Step 1: Finding the right counselor for you.

Consider your specific needs. You may want to find a therapist certified in that area, for example, addiction, grief, trauma, marriage, or family counseling. 

Counselors use different techniques in their treatment, an example being cognitive behavioral therapy (reframing negative thought patterns into positive ones). Understanding different methods of treatment may help in making the decision of which counselor is right for you. You can also seek out a Christian counselor near you who will use the Bible, prayer, and other Christian resources as part of your treatment plan.

Psychology Today’s website has a helpful search feature to assist in finding a local counselor:

You can also talk to a response pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, who has been trained to coach people through the process of finding the right counselor. The response pastors are available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–4 p.m., via the main church phone line: 847-765-5000, press 3 to leave a message for a response pastor who will call you back.

Step 2: Go prepared.

Whether it’s your first session or 100th, it’s important to go in prepared. Start with the reasons why you’re seeking out a counselor—be clear and honest with them about why you’re there and what you hope to achieve. In turn, your counselor will likely share ways in which you can work towards your goals, both with them and outside of your sessions. Some people see counselors for a specific need for a short period of time, while others have regular, ongoing visits. Consider your circumstance and be open with your counselor about discussing expectations, including the frequency of visits.

Step 3: Do your homework.

If your counselor recommends you do something (for example joining group therapy, reading a book, or trying something new), do it!

Your counselor will assist you in finding ways to achieve your goals, but he/she can’t achieve them for you; you will need to put in the effort. As we know, anything worth striving for is going to take work. 

Find a good fit, go prepared, put in the work, and you’ll see life-changing results. Furthermore, think and pray about this: in which areas of my life do I think a professional counselor could help?

Taking a step forward in our faith, to move beyond the emotional and mental baggage that weighs us down can look different for everyone: it may include confession, forgiving yourself, forgiving someone else, or all of the above.

When it comes to forgiveness, our first choice should always be to give it to God and seek His forgiveness first. After that, it may be beneficial to find additional help from a counselor, and God would absolutely approve of our willingness to gain earthly help.

For more information on counseling and places to find a counselor, please visit our counseling resources here.

How To Stop A Panic Attack.

For more practical ways to deal with mental health issues, and stories of others who have been there too, go here for our full list of resources.