How to Choose Your Counsellor

You’ve made the decision to go to counselling…now what? Finding the right therapist for you is an essential part of the process and can impact the success of your treatment. So how do you find a good match? What do you look for when choosing someone? What resources exist to help you in your search? Here are some tips to keep in mind while looking for the right person.

Define your goals

Is there a specific reason you are attending sessions? Is there something in your past you feel is holding you back or remains unresolved? Reflecting on what you would like to accomplish in therapy is a big step towards choosing a counsellor. They can help you explore your experiences and develop goals for growth and improved mental health.

It may also be beneficial to research the types of therapy used for your specific concerns and find a counsellor who is trained in that modality. For example, if you suffer from a lot of anxious thoughts and avoidance behaviours, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) could be a good fit for you. If there are traumatic experiences in your past, you may want to consider Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

Check your insurance coverage

Many benefits packages now include mental health coverage. However, it is important to check your plan to see what is included as this varies greatly across insurance companies. Some plans may have a limit on the number of sessions you can attend each year or specify that you must see a counsellor that is already contracted with your company. If you do form a strong bond with a counsellor outside of your network, it may be possible to have them contracted on a limited basis for you to work with each other. Ask your employer about this possibility if the need arises.

If you will be paying out-of-pocket for therapy sessions, research counsellors who offer lower rates or sliding scale. Many organizations also have intern counsellors who offer lower prices.

Ask for referrals

A referral from a friend, doctor, or trusted colleague is another way to find a good match. If you know someone has had a good experience with their therapist, ask for their name and contact information. You may also ask other caring professionals for ideas, as they may have information from working in the field. Keep in mind that just because a counsellor was a good match for someone else it may not automatically mean they are right for you. However, personal referrals can help narrow the search down enough to give someone a try.

Use a reliable online database

Many counsellors register with professional databases and provide information on themselves, their background and style, treatment options, and price point. You can search for counsellors in your area or for those that offer telehealth sessions. If you have a specific mental health diagnosis, there may be a professional body that lists counsellors trained in that area. Conduct a few searches to see what is out there. In BC, a good place to start would be:

Schedule a Free Consultation

Many counsellors offer a free consultation in which you can meet, ask questions, and get a sense of who they are. You may wish to ask about the person’s background, treatment methods used, areas of speciality, etc. Pay attention to how you feel when talking to this person. Do they make you feel at ease? Do you feel seen, heard, and respected? Can you picture working with them in the long-term? If you want to book a free consultations at Island Clinical, click here.

What if I have a bad experience?

It can happen. You push yourself to attend a session and something about it feels off or upsets you. Perhaps the style of the therapist did not match what you were looking for. Maybe they said something that made you feel invalidated or misunderstood. Whatever the reason, it may happen that the counsellor you see is not a good match. When this happens, it is easy to feel discouraged and that therapy isn’t for you. However, it is so important to try again with someone else. Reflect on what didn’t work the first time. Did the person work for a large company? You may want to try a private clinic or someone with their own practice. Did the counsellor lack knowledge of what you are struggling with? Try researching someone specially trained in this area. It may take more time than you were hoping for, but the right fit is out there!

If you are currently searching for the right therapist, please reach out to Island Clinical Counselling. You will be connected to the counsellor who matches your description of what you are looking for so you can get started on your mental health journey.

Written by Cat Zydyk


Stanborough, R.J., & Lee, M. (2024, April 12). How to find a therapist: 8 tips for the right fit. Healthline.