The decision to see a counselor or therapist can be a difficult one. These difficulties can be multiplied if (as is often the case) you are not sure whether you need help, who you should see if you do, how you should go about locating such a person, and how you will pay for the treatment.
Regarding whether you need help, the answer to this question depends on a number of things. The most important of these is how you are feeling. If you are feeling significantly depressed, anxious, or otherwise troubled, and if these feelings seem to be more than just a passing mood, you should consider seeing someone to talk about it. This is particularly true if the feelings seem to be getting worse, if they seem to be out of your control, or if you are having thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else. You should keep in mind that talking to a counselor or therapist does not commit you to continue seeing that person. It is perfectly legitimate to meet with a counselor for one or more sessions just to explore whether or not counseling seems advisable and, if it does, whether or not this particular person seems right for you. Therefore, it can be helpful to make an appointment with a counselor or therapist simply to discuss whether you need help, and if so what kind.
Regarding whom you should see and how to pay for the treatment, it is best to take the last question first. If you are an Earlham student, you can talk with someone in Counseling Services without charge, as described on the next page. If you would prefer not to do this and/or you decide to see someone longer term, there are a number of resources in the Richmond area, as described on the page after next. Many of these resources are covered by insurance, and others have sliding scales or no fee for those who do not have insurance. You will need to find out what your insurance covers (which can usually be determined by calling your insurance company). If your coverage is limited, you will also need to make a realistic assessment of what you can afford. In addition, you should think about practical issues such as where the counselor practices and how you will get to counseling sessions.
Once you have determined which counselors are financially and practically accessible to you, it may be easier to make a decision. If you know and trust anyone who has seen a counselor you are considering, it may be helpful to consult with that person about the counselor. If you do so, however, keep in mind that everyone has different needs and reactions, and somebody else's response to that counselor may be quite different from your own. If you get a strong positive or negative reaction from someone you know about a particular counselor, I would suggest that you ask your friend in more detail about the reasons for his or her reaction to the counselor, and you should carefully consider whether you would react in the same way.
There are a number of things that you may want to consider in choosing a counselor. Are the age and/or gender of the counselor important considerations for you? Do you have strong preferences about the counselor's theoretical orientation (cognitive, humanistic, psychodynamic, etc.)? Is it important to you to find someone with a certain level of education or specialized training or amount of experience? How would you feel about medication if the counselor should recommend it? If any of these issues are especially important to you, you should raise them with the counselor in your initial phone contact, as well as practical questions about such things as the cost of the initial consultation, the role of insurance, and how soon you can be seen.
When you go to the initial consultation, you should feel free to discuss the above issues in more detail. You should also feel free to talk about what you want from the counseling and to ask the counselor questions about himself or herself. Such questions might include what he or she typically does in counseling, what his or her goals for the treatment might be, and how long it might be expected to accomplish these goals. If you have any questions or concerns about the counselor's responses to these questions, or about his or her style of interaction, you should feel free to raise these issues in the initial session (or any time thereafter). Your counselor should not be offended by such questions, or reluctant to answer them. Even if your concerns are not "deal-breakers" for seeing this counselor, it will probably be helpful to share them as it is likely to help your counselor to understand more clearly what you want and how you are feeling about the counseling.
The next page gives some information about counseling resources at Earlham College, and the page after that about resources in the Richmond area. The final page in this section gives some information about your rights as a client.