Looking for a therapist or life coach is like trying to find your blind date at a Masquerade ball…
Coming from regulated fields – Certified Public Accountant (CPA) for five years, then Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) for 20 years, I am used to professions with education and ethical standards, as well as clients having rights and protections.
It wasn’t until I dipped my toes into the coaching arena that I realized how unregulated professions can become a total free-for-all. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that hiring a life, transformation, executive, or leadership coach can be a positive life-altering step in reaching goals and making major shifts. But how does one sift through all of the noise and ensure they are hiring someone that has integrity, is skilled, qualified, and has the knowledge and ability to provide these helpful services?
The downside of seeking services from an unregulated industry is that there are no ethical standards or recourse for clients. Literally, anyone, regardless of education, experience, qualifications, or knowledge can “hang out their shingle” and profess to be a coach.
One must be reminded that people can represent themselves online anyway they choose. We have no way of knowing whether the information is true or not. I have seen some very polished, professional looking, very convincing online presentations that completely fooled me until I scratched just below the surface and found the complete opposite - it was all fake.
I do believe strongly in the benefits of the helping profession and it pains me to observe those in the industry, whether coaches or therapists, taking unfair advantage of consumers needing/wanting help. No… actually, it angers me. Not only does it harm the very individuals seeking help, it also completely tarnishes the entire profession.
So, what can be done? I decided to put my anger into something productive and provide helpful information for anyone thinking about working with a mental health therapist or life coach. I will provide you with the tools needed to find a high-quality professional. I don’t want the muckety muck out there to prevent you from seeking services from someone that is highly skilled and talented in the helping profession. I want to help prevent you from spending your time, money, and energy on those lacking professional integrity.
Let’s start at the beginning and determine whether you need/want coaching or therapy. This can sometimes be confusing, so I provided a partial list of the differences.
Ability for health insurance coverage – Not all therapists bill insurance. If they do not, they will often provide you with the needed documentation so that you can submit claims to insurance yourself.
The therapist must be licensed in the state where the client is located.
Charges are billed for each session.
Therapists set their own pricing, but the overall range is fairly narrow. There is a general professional pricing standard reflective of the therapists’ experience level, location, and reputation. When insurance is billed, that sets the cap for the charges.
You will receive a DSM diagnosis such as depression, anxiety, or adjustment disorder (not an exhaustive list). This is necessary for insurance reimbursement.
Typically addresses issues that have been negatively impacting you in the past and present.
Some issues include (not an exhaustive list): family conflict, substance abuse, trauma, self-esteem, communication, interpersonal relationships, setting boundaries, negative behavior patterns, self-sabotage, decision making, emotional regulation, depression, stress, anxiety, and any other mental health diagnosed condition.
A therapist is licensed (although there may be unlicensed individuals referring to themselves as a therapist, so verify their credentials). A licensed therapist has: a minimum of a master’s degree with supervised internship hours; 2000 to 3000 hours of supervised clinical experience after receiving a master’s degree and before licensure; ongoing and required continuing education hours to include ethics; and passing of board exams. A counselor may or may not be licensed but may have certifications (less requirements than a license).
No insurance coverage.
Coaching is a very broad field and covers a very wide range of topics to include (not an exhaustive list): business, finance, writing, speaking, leadership development, career development, health and wellness, etc.
Often addresses your future goals and desires.
There is no standardized pricing and there exists a very broad range in charges. Many coaches offer packages, rather than charging per session.
Some may be certified through a coaching course.
Some coaches that are not certified may be qualified due to their extensive life experience.
Coaching does not require a license, certification, or any sort of training.
Coaching does not require ongoing continuing education, supervised experience, or ongoing consultation.
Become very clear about what you want to change in your life, how much money you are open to spending, and determine if coaching or therapy is your best match. Then do your research!
How to pick a high-quality coach and/or therapist
Ask for recommendations from people you trust. Then dig deeper:
What did they like about this therapist or coach?
Exactly how did the coach/therapist help him/her?
What strategies did the professional use?
Is there anything that he/she did not like about the coach/therapist?
What is the timeline in which the client began experiencing positive results?
Once you have gathered a few potential names, let’s get to work and do some research!
If they have a website, read it thoroughly and look over the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). You may find the answers to most of your questions there.
If a therapist – what is their license (LMFT, LCSW, LPC)? There are some mental health counselors that are not licensed, but may have a certification (less requirements) or are working with a licensed supervisor providing consultation – you will want to find out.
Look for their verified profile on the following legitimate sites: Psychology Today, Therapy Den, Therapist.com, Good Therapy. Check to see if they are a member of any national professional associations. For example, LCSWs often belong to NASW – National Association of Social Workers. Note: the absence on these sites does not mean they lack credibility, but these sites do provide license verification.
If a coach – are they certified and if so what certification? Then research that program. If not, what life experience qualifies them for this particular type of coaching?
What is their specialty and does it fit with your needs?
Find out their methodology. Is it vague? Very general? Hedgy? Lacking clarity? Or, is it specific? Easy to understand? Make sense? Are you able to visualize how it could apply to your situation?
Do they advertise themselves as a “best-selling author” or do they have any publications, blogs or books they have written? A word to the wise, being a Best-Selling Amazon author is not as impressive as it sounds. There are hacks to working the algorithm and one can become an Amazon Best Selling Author with less than 50 book sales. I recommend you read everything the person has written and determine for yourself if you resonate with the subject matter the person writes about.
Do they advertise “award winning… “? If so, dig deeper and find out: what awards they have won? How was the winner chosen? Who gave the award? What did they have to do to be chosen? What makes that award special or important? There are many awards given that hold little to no significance. I know, I have won meaningless awards myself and it’s as valuable as monopoly money. So, verify the value and credibility of this award and what it acknowledges about the person.
If they have a social media presence (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram), you can gain a lot of information, but you will need to sift through the fluff. Here’s how:
What type of content do they post? Do you like it? Does it contain messaging you like? Is there consistency? Are most of the posts salesy? Do they post negative remarks about clients not being happy with their services and blaming the client? (yes, those are out there)
Do the posts make promises that seem unrealistic or even magical? Do their posts make promises that you will earn a large amount of money in a very short amount of time? Land big time speaking gigs with minimal effort? Reach thousands of book sales in just a few days? etc.. Remember the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Some people purchase followers or obtain followers in a non-organic manner. This helps them appear more credible by using the persuasion tactic of social proof. A good way to test this is to note the number of followers and look for congruency with their posts’ engagements (you can find this on their home page). If a person has over 20,000 followers but each post has less than 10 likes and less than 5 comments, this is likely someone with fake followers. I am thinking of someone in particular that appears very polished, very professional, totally believable, but digging just a little deeper, I was able to ascertain that this was highly manipulated information. I advise not hiring these folks.
The number of followers a person has is not necessarily a direct correlation of the quality of service they provide. Look for integrity, congruency, and content quality in their postings.
Many therapists and coaches offer an initial free consultation where you can ask them questions, but do your homework first so that you make the most productive use of this time. If they do not offer a free consultation, inform them that you have some questions you need answered before you decide if they are a good fit for you. They may offer to answer questions via email.
You are making an investment of time and money and it’s important that you find the person that is the right fit for you. If you choose someone and after a couple of sessions you are not happy with the service, discuss your concerns with your coach/therapist to see if things can improve. If that is not feasible, stop working with that person and find someone else. It is imperative that you have a positive and trusting relationship with your coach or therapist. When you do, magic can happen!
Do you have more questions about this topic? If so, drop me a comment down below.