I have been to counseling — many times and at many ages. Some people think that the person in counseling needs to be ready to change their habits or mindset, and that’s all that is needed. I say that the right therapist is as important as the willingness of the patient to change. If it’s not the right therapist, the person being counseled will have wasted their time and money.
Different types of degrees make up the world of counseling. Knowing who does what, can help a patient make a choice. Most must be licensed to practice in their state. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has a specialty in psychiatric disorders. Most are too busy to actually counsel, and make referrals to others who can. Mostly, they are writers for prescriptions these days. My feeling is that unless a patient has some kind of diagnosis that calls for medication (schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, or other such brain diseases), that medicine just masks the problem, and no real advancement toward a cure can be made by taking prescriptions.
Most people can benefit by choosing someone who is a licensed mental health counselor, most of whom have a Master’s degree in counseling and who have had a supervised internship in their field. Some have Ph.Ds, too. In counselors, you can take your pick from marriage and family counselors, grief counseling, teen counselors, substance abuse counseling, group counseling (which tends to be less expensive) and more. It depends on how you identify your immediate needs and problems.
If you are religious, pastoral counseling might fit your needs. These are people who have training in both theology and in psychology and are able to provide for your spiritual and mental needs. Beware though, of ANY counselor who tries to tell you how to run your life or what to do. Their job is not to decide for you, but to help you determine your own healthy path in life.
The counselor who helped me the most was a generalist, licensed in counseling, but also who was trained to do EMDR therapy. That means Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which allows people who have experienced abuse and trauma to work through the pain of their traumatic experiences. This type of counseling and treatment allows the person in therapy to be able to think about painful occurrences without feeling the pain. It worked for me.
Some people go to hypnosis, and some counselors are trained in this. Some people cannot be helped by hypnotic suggestion because they cannot be hypnotized. Some people swear by it for breaking bad habits, like smoking, or drugs. I cannot be hypnotized, so this was off the table for me. Others swear by acupuncture therapy for substance abuse or addictions. Frankly, I think you may as well kiss a dead cat under the full moon to get just as much help. To each his own, and what works for one may not work for another.
Finally, assess the cost of each and what you can afford: what your health care will pay for, and what you must pay out of pocket. Location of the therapist may play a part in that cost. One last thing is to consider the personality of the counselor. If the two of you don’t hit it off, and the counselor makes you feel uncomfortable for some reason, trust your instincts and find another one that is better suited to your personality. Someone out there will be right for you.