Counseling: Knowing your options
Counseling: Knowing your options
By Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
When personal distress reaches a level beyond acceptability counseling is seen
as a viable option to address the problem. This article describes counseling
Public agencies are usually supported by charitable donations or government
programs or grants and operate on a not-for-profit basis. Service is provided on
a fee-geared-to-income basis. This means services will be affordable. While some
public services may offer brief crisis intervention services with quick access,
more often there is an extensive waiting list causing delay in receiving
service. Further, the user has no say in the counselor assigned. The background
and experience of the counselor can vary but most will have between 2 to 10
years of experience. Services are confidential, but there may be many other
persons in the waiting room you meet as you come and go.
Employee Assistance Programs are counseling services contracted for by
employers for their employees. These services are generally free to the employee
and there may be a range in the total number of sessions available. As in public
services, the actual service provider is assigned to the employee. Services are
confidential and some service providers have policies to reduce the chance of
people from the same company as one exits and another enters. If you require
additional sessions beyond what is provided by the employer contract, you would
pay for this yourself. It is important to know how many free sessions are
offered and the cost of additional sessions if required. Most EAP counselors
usually have at least five years of counseling experience.
Third Party Benefits
Third Party Benefits are provided through an insurer. The insurer offers the
policyholder set funds for service with some restrictions on the choice of
counselor. It is important to read your benefits card and phone your insurer
before you access service to make sure it is covered and to learn about the
restrictions. You will be responsible for costs beyond coverage. Matters of
confidentiality will depend on the service provider.
Private Counseling Services
With private counseling services the user has full choice in who they see.
However, you will have to pay directly for service. Fees generally range from
$75.00 - $150.00 depending on the experience of the counselor. Anyone can
provide private counseling services, with or without credentials. Therefore it
is important that the user always ask about the credentials, education and
experience of the counselor. When counselors are in private practice, there
may be no means of accountability if you are not satisfied with the service.
Therefore it is also important to know if your counselor is a member of a
profession and is licensed or registered. If the counselor is licensed or
registered, then they have a system of accountability and you have recourse if
you are unsatisfied with service. Counselors in private practice are often able
to see people sooner and many offer a very high level of confidentiality as they
have the most control of their practice and setting.
What matters most to you?
The factors you must weigh in making a counseling decision include: cost, level
of confidentiality, access to service and choice. Depending on the issue you may
weigh these factors differently. Regardless of option, you have the right to ask
about any counselor's education, experience, approach to counseling and number
of sessions usually required. Depending on your situation and the nature of the
problem, either option may be appropriate. The choice is up to you.
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