Choosing a Professional

Find the Right Professional

How to Choose a Good Professional

Not all professionals are good
Some of your reasons for not going for assistance are valid. Some are not.

Making a choice in professionals is not simple. There are many different specialties and modalities used. Unfortunately, the skill level ranges widely. Some professional are poor to awful, most are decent to good, some are very good. The educational background and the fees charged are not necessarily a good indicator of the quality of the professional. Often word of mouth is the best way to find someone, except that not everybody feels comfortable letting you know they’ve gone to someone to assist them in their personal life. Below are 4 questions to guide you. 
  • Has the professional experienced what you’re going through? Have they had significant success in dealing with these situations in their own lives?
  • If they haven’t experienced what you’re going through, have they had success working with others who have gone through what you’re going through?
  • Do you feel comfortable and confident with this person? 
  • What is their educational/training background and years of experience? One can go through the hoops of becoming a professional without actually being competent. The training to become a professional is valuable. Professional training—such as master’s and doctorate programs—provide professionals with invaluable knowledge and experience.

Other General Points to Consider

Professional fees
  • Basically, your choices for professionals include, 1) those in the mental health field (Doctor’s, Master’s, and undergraduate degrees—psychologists, regular counselors, those with social work degrees, marriage trained therapists, sex therapists), 2) psychiatrists (doctors trained in mental health and medicine; are able to prescribe drugs for mental health issues), 3) trained coaches, and 4) those who have enough life experience to offer a service and may not be educated in formal settings.  
  • Shop around for the best person and the best fees. However, skill and fees vary greatly. It probably would not be in your best interest to make your decision based solely on who has the lowest price.
  • Professional fees for my type of service and for those in the mental health field can range from almost nothing within funded agencies to $250+ an hour. If you’re limiting your search to only those who accept insurance, you might be tempted to choose someone who fits your pocketbook, but not your needs.
  • One would be better off paying a very good professional $150 an hour and getting very good results, than paying someone $30 an hour and getting inadequate results. This, however, doesn’t mean that the professional with the highest fees are the best. You could also find a professional who charges $30 an hour who is better than the person who charges $150 an hour.
  • Consider hiring more than one professional at a time. This is not common, but the team approach might get the job done better. It also gives you the benefit of more than one perspective.

Feeling ashamed about getting help
  • Many people are ashamed to get support for life and relationship challenges. They have the notion that coaches and counselors are for people who are weak and have severe problems. Counseling and/or coaching is something everyone can benefit from at different points in their lives. Just as you’d talk to a friend when you’re facing a challenge, you talk to a professional when the challenge is bigger than your friend can handle. Asking for support is a character strength.

Concern about being judged and told what to do
  • There are professionals who are judgmental and those who will tell you what to do. Exploring your life challenges is best done in a completely accepting atmosphere. It is also best done in an atmosphere that gives you the power--having you see new options and then allowing you to choose what you are going to do.

Standard practice of 50-60 minute sessions
  • The standard session length, especially in the mental health field, is about an hour. This is more convenient for the professional, not because it best serves the client. This is especially true for couples. It can be quite a bumpy road just becoming willing to see a professional. When sessions are cut short or even abruptly ended “because our time is up”, or when it takes weeks and months to get some sense of understanding on what is going on in your relationship, many couples just don’t survive the process. 
  • Try to find a professional who offers extended sessions—especially in the beginning sessions. This can be quite a challenge because the mental health system is influenced by the insurance business. Insurance companies need a way to standardize treatment. That is, they need a way to measure treatment so it is billed correctly. So, they typically pay for one-hour sessions. Therefore, no matter your situation, you get 45 minutes to an hour for a session. When the insurance company says your session is up, your session is up.

  • The insurance companies also require that the person being treated gets a diagnosis. With no diagnosis, you can’t bill for insurance. Thus all clients who use their insurance are diagnosed with a mental condition. Not everybody wants to be labeled with a diagnosis.

Bill White’s published article, “The Truth About Going for Couples Counseling” explores further ideas on finding a good professional and why going to a professional might be the easiest route

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“I’ve been doing hypnotherapy weekly for a while now and I love it, but lately I’ve had some difficult things to deal with and I’ve been very distressed. For the last month I’ve felt numb. I’ve been irritable, trouble sleeping, I’ve felt depressed, hopeless, and scared for myself. I decided to work with Bill even though we’re friends. 

In our first session we got in really deep inside my mind and heart, and made key connections to the influence of childhood. I cried my heart out. I came home and slept like a baby. I woke up feeling brand new. Full of energy and optimism. Bill is a miracle worker. I did not realize he had these gifts.” 

 Ms. JT, Tucson
My teens have been going to a counselor lately. I could have gone to the same one through insurance, but I’d rather pay 5 times my little co-pay and continue working with you. They were excited about counseling at first, but not now. She limits the sessions to 50 minutes and from talking to her, it appears it’s just a job to her. She doesn’t really get to the bottom of anything like you do. I am blown away with you. You are a well-kept secret in Tucson.

Ms. WE, Tucson
In some ways, you did very little. You asked a few questions, wrote down a few phrases on your whiteboard, let me talk some more and make my own realizations, say what was in my heart, and simply 'held the space' for me to have breakthrough and clarity. Because I was so distraught, and because you were so available, I spilled as much as I could in order to clear my head and mouth from all it was holding, which was like a dam breaking. Whew!!! Just THAT was profoundly healing.
I felt comfortable enough to say some ugly and mean-sounding things that were truth for me; truth that for all of my life, until then, I didn't think I could say (or FEEL!) You did not judge or emote. You simply listened and affirmed me, let me know that I am valid in my feelings, and let me sit with my own realizations and questions.
Thank you! You addressed all of my questions, showed me connections between my abandonment stuff, my fear of anger, my anger at my parents' being gone, and my need to caretake and sugarcoat. Wow!!! LOTS of stuff that made SO much sense!!!! It felt like I went into your office with a big mangled box of thousands of pieces of jewelry, all tangled up together, and came out with intact necklaces, pairs of earrings, and shining rings to wear home and begin to appreciate my beauty within, my development, and my ability to live life from a new perspective.  
You said I looked lighter when I left. I FEEL lighter, wiser, more compassionate, and more able to love those that I had been feeling so much unspoken hatred and anger toward. Thank you, Bill. What I was going through would have taken me weeks or months to resolve. We did all that in about an hour! This healing has altered my life.
I will be forever grateful for that healing moment in time. 

Ms. MS, Tucson
Note from Bill White:
Many years ago, my sister, Holly, thought it was miracle when her husband agreed to come to counseling. In their first session, they had the typical 50-minute session. At 50 minutes, they were in a vulnerable, tender place--in the middle of getting to the heart of something. Both were in tears. The counselor looked at his watch and told them that they need to wrap up this session. It was a shock to both of them. Her husband became angry. She knew he was never coming back and this was the end of their marriage. She was so distraught, she sat down on the curb outside the office in a public place, put her head in her hands and balled. People came by to ask if she was alright. This is the type of thing I don’t want to create in my sessions, so I leave sessions open-ended. I also rarely schedule back to back clients.
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