Dorie L. Griggs

How to Find a Counselor

By Dorie L. Griggs
First Published in Southern Newspaper Publishers Association eBulletin
June 12, 2003

A number of journalists have told me they are hesitant to meet with a counselor. Much of their apprehension is tied up in the old stereotype of the therapist in a chair while the tormented client lies on a couch.

Seeking a counselor is not a sign of weakness, just the opposite. It takes a strong individual to admit they need assistance. Seeking the help of a trained professional is a sign you understand yourself and your limitations.

Finding a counselor is like making a new friend. In the process of building a relationship we discover things we have in common. When you look for a counselor or therapist, find one that matches your particular needs. During the interview process or during your first appointment, the counselor will explain the general method he or she uses. In this first meeting ask your questions and voice any concerns about credentialing and procedures.

If you don't know where to start in finding a counselor, ask for a referral from the people you know and trust. Ask your friends for a referral. Ask them what they liked and didn't like about the therapist.

Your primary care physician also could be a resource, although medical doctors do tend to refer to a medical specialist. You may want to begin with a counselor and be referred to a psychiatrist if your particular situation requires a medical approach in addition to psych-therapy.

Many different types of people use the word "counselor" in describing their work. Certification regulations vary by state. Ultimately to assure you are working with a person who is guided by professional standards of the profession, ask what association they are certified through. Go to that association web site for background information on their credentialing and certification process. For a more detailed explanation of how to identify a therapist, what type of therapy is available and other questions, visit: and click on "About Therapy" or click here.

If finances are a concern, you may need to look into your insurance plan or the employee assistance program through your company. Many large news organizations have counselor on a retainer to assist employees with confidential counseling services. Check with the counselor prior to your meeting regarding the level of confidentiality kept when referred by an insurance plan. Also ask the counselor for their area of expertise to make sure their background matches your needs.

Your place of worship may offer referral services. A member of the clergy can be a good starting point, especially if you have questions regarding your faith. Some members of the clergy have more training than others in counseling. If you have concerns outside the bounds of the clergy persons' experience, ask them for a referral to a certified counselor with expertise in the desired area of work.

For additional information on identifying a therapist or counselor, try the following resources:

  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
    Go to "Locate a family therapist near you."
  • American Association of Pastoral Counselors
    Go to "Find a counselor/center."
  • A Gift from Within
  • The Dart Center for Journalists and Trauma
    Click on the resource page

The information provided in this column is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice.

Dorie L. Griggs holds a Master of Divinity degree and her ministry is to journalists. Contact her via e-mail:

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