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Choosing a Family Counselor

Counselling and SupportWith the highs and lows that can at times present themselves in a remarriage and stepfamily, you may find yourself in a position of looking for a family counselor. Family counseling is a great avenue to explore if there are reoccurring issues or concerns with the way your family is working together. Underlying anger, fear or resentment can cause ongoing issues for everyone in the household. When faced with the decision of who to see, many people will turn to a list provided by their insurance company or gathered through a website. But what are the next steps and how do you know who is the best choice for your family? How can you be certain that they will help and not harm?

Check your insurance. Will your insurance cover any of your visits? If so, what is the coverage and who can you see? Are there any limitations or requirements you should be aware of?

Talk to your friends and family. Chances are you know at least one person who at some time has seen a counselor. Do they have any names that they would recommend or caution against? It’s important to remember that the dynamic one person had may not be the same for you, but recommendations are one place to start.

Background and Licensing. Are they licensed and what type of license do they hold? Make sure that they have the background and experience to work with your family. If a person does not have experience with remarriage and stepfamilies, they may not be the best choice for your particular needs. If there are special circumstances such as past abuse or parent alienation, it’s important that the person you see has the ability to work on these items. Some circumstances needs specific approaches or techniques that not every counselor will have experience handling.

Environment. Would this person have the types of appointments that will work for you? You know your family and your children best, if the counselor does not have appointment times that will work for you, it won’t be easy to continue moving forward with the visits even if they are helpful. For example, they only evening appointment times but you know that will be difficult with your child’s swim practice. The same goes for the office location. If the location isn’t convenient or comfortable, you won’t be likely to continue returning.

Call them. Once you have your list narrowed down to a few names, give them a call. Talk to them about what you are looking for and ask them questions about how their education and experience fits with your needs. If they won’t take 10 minutes to chat with you before setting up an appointment, it may be best to go to the next person on your list. Trust your instincts and rate how the conversation went and how comfortable you felt talking with them.

Give them a try. Schedule time with your top choice with the understanding that if it isn’t a good fit, you can move on to someone else. Everyone will have their own style and it’s important to find someone that you and your family feels comfortable with. If after a session or two, you decide that it isn’t a good fit, don’t feel bad about moving on! It’s important you find someone who will be able to address your family’s concerns.

Choosing a Family Counselor

Amy Bellows, PhD

Amy Bellows holds a PhD in Psychology and has had the opportunity to work in various settings including leading adolescent group therapy sessions, working with victims of sexual assault, helping woman inmates adjust to post-prison life, conducting parenting education classes and assisting with drug and alcohol dependency treatment plans. The unique challenges and opportunities that come along with being a part of a step-family is a special interest of hers. Amy is currently working in the corporate environment with a interest in group dynamics and change management. You can find her on her website, or on Twitter @AmyBellowsPhD.

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APA Reference
Bellows, A. (2015). Choosing a Family Counselor. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Nov 2015
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