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Counseling Green Flags: How to Know You Have a Good Counselor

A good counselor should make their patients feel safe, comfortable, and equipped. Yet, you may be wondering, how do you even begin to look for a counselor? While the red flags are usually pretty easy to spot, the green flags are the ones you want to keep your eyes peeled for. Whether you’ve been attending counseling for years or you’re just getting started, we’re here to help. Together we’ll discuss the qualities that make up a good counselor. Before we get to the green flags, we first need to discuss the basics.

Who Are Counselors?

Counselors are mental health professionals who help patients healthily process life circumstances. Licensed professional counselors (LPCs) are usually required to have a master’s degree in counseling and will often be certified in at least one specialty. Licensure requirements vary per state and facility, however, it is always a good idea to make sure the counselor you’re seeing meets all of the state requirements. This will ensure your safety and that are getting quality treatment.

Green Flags: What Makes a Good Counselor

Thankfully, quality mental health information has been on the rise. However, it’s easy to see how it could be overwhelming to know where to begin. Luckily, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has five things to look for in a good counselor:

Credentials Matter

One of the most important things to consider is credentials. In the world of counseling, credentials are what makes someone qualified to practice as a mental health professional. Credentials include degrees, licensure, and certifications. 

As previously stated, LPCs are typically required to have a master’s degree and be licensed by the state. Additionally, each state has a certain number of hours that must be worked under supervision before they are allowed to practice on their own. Once the state requirements are completed and licensure is issued, LPCs must continue to follow state guidelines to continue practicing. This ensures the safety of the patients, as well as the counselor.

Being certified in a specialty means that a clinician has taken extra continuing education classes that specialize in helping patients with certain diagnoses. For example, if you have just experienced the loss of a loved one, you might want to see an LPC who is certified in grief and bereavement. You could also see an LPC who is trained to practice trauma-informed care, like the clinicians at Sage Recovery. These types of counselors will have access to unique resources and evidence-based care. As a result, they will be able to give you comprehensive treatment and tools that will help you heal healthily. 

Why Full Assessments and Personalized Treatment Are Important for a Good Counselor

A good counselor will also perform full assessments and personalized treatment. Here at Sage Recovery, we refer to this as practicing whole-person health. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) explains, “Whole person health involves looking at the whole person—not just separate organs or body systems—and considering multiple factors that promote either health or disease.”

Considering the patient’s entire history is vital to the effectiveness of the healing process. Just as a cardiologist should ask about a patient’s family and medical history to determine the best plan of care, a counselor should also take a full patient assessment. Knowing what shaped their patient and what makes them who they are will massively impact the way they receive treatment. 

Furthermore, the counselor should be able to create a comprehensive, customized treatment plan that fits the patient’s unique needs. Treatment is not one-size-fits-all. The more personalized the treatment is to the patient, the higher the likelihood that they’ll heal healthily. 

It is important to note that the counselor may choose to change the plan of care as time goes on. Different people respond to treatment differently, so it may take a while to find the right one.

A Good Counselor Uses Evidence-Based Treatments

The NIAAA explains, “Evidence-based care is treatment that is grounded in the best available scientific research, showing a clear link between improved patient outcomes and the use of medications, behavioral therapies, or other treatment components.” 

Evidence-based care is vital in the healing process because these types of treatments have been well-researched for their efficacy. These evidence-based treatments typically include techniques such as:

It is important to note that attending counseling might feel uncomfortable at times, as suppressed memories or difficult emotions may surface. This is normal, and a good counselor will be able to help you process everything healthily, even though it may not feel good at the moment. However, you shouldn’t ever feel unsafe with your counselor. If you do, you can discuss it with them or reach out to their supervisor to request a new counselor. While it isn’t advised that you suddenly stop seeking mental health treatment without clearance from a clinician, your safety and well-being are of the utmost importance.

Continuing Recovery Support

A good counselor also offers continuing recovery support. This will look different for each facility and counselor, as there are varying degrees of support based on the patient’s needs and the state’s requirements. However, it is important to have a counselor who is willing to equip you with resources and tools for how to continue healing, even if the counseling sessions end. 

For some, it may contain support groups or regular check-ins with a clinician. Even though everyone’s journey will look different, it’s important to have a counselor who will provide you with everything you need to continue healing healthily. 

Looking for a good counselor may feel intimidating. Knowing what makes a good counselor may feel impossible. Luckily, you don’t have to go through it alone. Here at Sage Recovery, our master’s level clinicians are ready and willing to help you heal every step of the way. Whether you need help healing from trauma, addiction, or mental illness, we can help. Every single person on our staff is extensively trained to provide trauma-informed care, so you can rest easy knowing that you will always be treated with dignity and respect. Whether you’ve attended counseling multiple times or you don’t even know where to start, we can help. Reach out to us at (512) 306-1394. We’ll walk alongside you.