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August 16, 2018 Beyond The Dash

Finding the Right Grief Counselor

Professional advice for the bereaved soul

Finding the Right Grief Counselor
Your relationship with your grief counselor is ongoing. You can always search for another one if something doesn't feel quite right. (Shutterstock)

Counseling can be a beneficial process for people of all backgrounds, ages and experiences. Particularly when a loved one has passed away, seeking out the services of a qualified grief counselor can be an effective way to gauge your emotional health. But not all grief counselors are created equally. Finding a counselor that is a good fit for you is key to making your time with them productive. 


Today we're exploring the traits you should look for when searching for a grief counselor.


Is grief counseling really necessary?


Going to a counselor is a personal choice. No one can force you to open up to a counselor. However, almost everybody can benefit from professional counseling with a trained counselor —particularly when you've suffered a recent loss. Not everyone goes to grief counseling, and they end up just fine. Only you can tell whether or not you need extra assistance during this time of grief. If you aren't sure, but just don't feel "well," it won't hurt to try. You may discover you are doing just fine on your own—but it's still worth the visit.


By regularly checking in on your mental health, you reduce the possibility of experiencing a sudden and unexpected issues in the future. Though your initial conversations with a counselor might be full of more awkward silence than candid sharing, it gets easier each time. Like anyone, it takes some time to become comfortable with a counselor.


Everybody faces conflicting thoughts, and frankly discussing personal issues with a professional is a safe way to explore tough topics. You can be more candid with a professional than with friends or family members, and counselors are legally obliged to keep conversations confidential.


What to look for


When selecting a counselor, there are many factors to consider before making the first appointment. Here are some tips to help you find a qualified counselor that's right for you and your situation.


Determining your criteria


Answer the following questions to gain a better understanding of your needs:



  • Are you looking for family or individual counseling?

  • Does it matter if they accept your insurance?

  • Would you rather meet in person, or via phone or webcam?

  • Do you have any cultural considerations that are important? (Eg. finding counseling through your church)

  • How often would you like to meet?

  • What hours work best with your schedule?

  • What types of people are you most comfortable with? (Eg. young, mature, male, female, socially conscious, etc.)


How to find a counselor


If you've never been to counseling before, you might not know where to begin. There are many ways to access counseling, but one of the simplest is to ask around. If you know others who have tried counseling, and feel comfortable, you can ask for recommendations. If you aren't comfortable with the people in your life knowing that you want to see a counselor, put Google to work. Search for grief counselors in your area. Because grief is a common and destructive human experience, you'll most likely find that there are many resources available. 


Use your personal criteria to narrow down the options, and then book your first appointment.


Beware of unlicensed counselors


While most states have licensing requirements for professional counselors, requiring certain levels of training and education, there are many unlicensed counselors out there seeking business. Under the guise of spiritual or personal expertise, these counselors advertise their business as professionals, despite having little to no training. 


Make sure to ask for your prospective counselor's credentials and training before booking an appointment with them. Use a trusted directory of counseling services in your area if one is available. Ask for their license number, or if their services are covered by insurance. Counseling can be life-changing, but it's essential to entrust your private thoughts to someone with professional training only.


The first appointment


The first time you meet with your counselor could be the only appointment you need with them. It could also be the beginning of a long-term, regular or semi-regular professional relationship. The first appointment is a chance to get to know your counselor and explain your reasons for seeking assistance. Contrary to movie portrayals of primal psychologists pushing their clients to enlightenment, counseling is usually just a conversation. Unraveling feelings, expressing fears and working on ways to better communicate are typical goals of counseling. 


You don't have to go back


After the first couple of sessions, think carefully about how it measured up to your expectations. You don't have to be best friends with your counselor to respect their advice and gain something from your time together. However, if a personality clash makes it impossible to continue to see them, you should have no qualms about dropping this counselor and resuming your search. Counselors are used to this! Many people are insecure about the idea of "firing" their counselor, but it's important to remember this is a professional relationship, despite the emotional nature of the conversations you have. Don't let discomfort with shopping around prevent you from getting the help that you need, particularly during a vulnerable time.


As draining as it may be (especially if you're having trouble coping after the loss), it's worth it to prioritize finding the right grief counselor. If the first person you meet with doesn't work for you, try, try and try again. It's worth having someone removed from your life ready and able to help you down life's paths.


Start your search


Reaching out to any grief counselor can make a huge difference to your recovery. If you are passionate about finding a grief counselor that is a great fit for you, then follow the suggestions listed above. You can change counselors as many times as you need to until you feel comfortable. A trustworthy, honest grief counselor that you connect with can help you heal in a way that you never thought possible.

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