Before your first appointment, your rights as a client, state confidentiality laws and limitations of therapy will be given to you in writing and reviewed verbally with you. The therapist will also give you a written disclosure statement of his/her licenser, other credentials and areas of expertise.
The therapist will conduct a thorough assessment of your present situation and important background information during the first couple of sessions.
The therapist will then suggest a treatment plan, whether written or verbalized, about how to approach the issue(s) at hand. Part of this plan will be the therapist's best guess as to how long (assuming no new issues arise) the counseling process is likely to take.
If you are worried about your privacy and fear that your secrets will get out, realize that all licensed professionals are bound by law to keep confidential what is said and documented in a therapy session. There are exceptions in situations where there is potential suicide or homicide danger, evidence of physical abuse to a minor or an elderly person, or suspicion of sexual abuse of a minor. However, a therapist is obligated to inform you of this at your first appointment .
improving personal and family life,
knowledge and understanding!
You can check with friends, a school counselor, churches and/or your physician's office.
Interview each counselor over the telephone.
Most practices offer telephone consultations. Ask questions like: What credentials and certifications do you have? How long have you been in practice? What issues do you specialize in? What is your experience in the specific area I am seeking counseling for? How would you approach this type of issue? Do you assign homework? What are your fees? Ask as many questions as you want.
Choose a therapist and begin.
Not all therapists operate the same way. Some will be very interactive. Some may have an "in your face" style. Others will be more subdued and simply reflect back to you what they hear you saying and what they sense you are feeling. Picking a therapist is like buying a new pair of shoes. While there are many quality shoes around, you only buy the pair that fits you. There is no "one size fits all" in counseling. If the counselor doesn't feel like a fit, don't buy. While individual styles of therapy vary, it is usually better to choose a counselor who is active, not passive in the session, working with you — not just listening to you.
Actively work with the therapist.
If you disagree, speak up. If you have questions, ask. If the therapist isn't making sense, seek clarification. The more active you are in the process, the better.
Realize that you are not "stuck" with a counselor forever.
If things are not going well or no clear plan of action is shared with you, speak up. If your personalities don't match or his/her style is not what you are comfortable with, talk openly about making a change to another therapist.