Avoid Common Mistakes When Choosing a Counselor: Tips for Maximizing Your Therapy Sessions

Life can be tough, and perhaps one of the best ways to address anxiety and depression is through therapy. A qualified counselor or therapist can help you or a loved one sort out issues to enjoy a better quality of life even as you age.

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Avoid Common Mistakes When Choosing a Counselor: Tips for Maximizing Your Therapy Sessions
8 Min Read May 18th, 2024

Life can be a rollercoaster; sometimes, we might need a helping hand to navigate the ups and downs we experience in daily life. For those over 50, life can become more complicated because you start to think about and deal with retirement, chronic health conditions, changing relationships, or caring for aging parents. 

Often used interchangeably with counseling, therapy can be a powerful tool for anyone, including older people, to find support and improve their overall well-being. There is little distinction between the terms counseling and therapy. However, there can be some subtle differences.

  • Focus: Counseling can focus more on addressing immediate problems or challenges. For example, you might seek counseling to adjust to retirement or cope with a recent loss. Conversely, therapy may delve deeper into exploring underlying emotional patterns and long-standing issues that contribute to current feelings of depression, anxiety, or general concern.
  • Techniques: Both counseling and therapy utilize various methods to help you cope and better understand. However, therapy might involve a more in-depth exploration of past experiences and their impact on present behaviors and anxieties.

Choosing the Right Path

When might you choose counseling over therapy, or vice versa? Here's a breakdown to help you decide:

  • Counseling:  A good option if you're facing a specific, immediate challenge and want to develop coping strategies or problem-solving skills. Imagine counseling as a roadmap to navigate a current obstacle.
  • Therapy:  A better choice if you want to explore deeper emotional issues or long-standing patterns that are impacting your overall well-being. Therapy might be like taking a scenic route, addressing not just the immediate destination but also the road that led you there.

Who Can Help?

Many qualified professionals can provide counseling or therapy services for older adults. These include:

  • Licensed Therapists: Masters-level clinicians trained in various therapeutic approaches.
  • Licensed Psychologists: Doctoral-level mental health professionals with expertise in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions.
  • Licensed Social Workers: Masters-level professionals who provide counseling and support services, often focusing on social and environmental factors impacting mental health.

Finding the Right Professional

Counseling sessions offer a safe and supportive environment for getting help during tough times. However, finding a counselor you connect with can be challenging. It's incredibly frustrating to think you've found the right person only to feel let down a few months later.

Given the complexities involved, it's easy to make mistakes when choosing a counselor or therapist. Avoid these five common pitfalls to help you find a counselor with the right experience, training, and skills.

Check Your Budget

A counselor who isn't suitable for you does not align with your financial constraints. If your insurance coverage is limited, you might be able to afford only a few sessions with a pricier counselor rather than many sessions with someone more affordable. It's wise to avoid counselors who significantly overcharge compared to others with similar qualifications.

Another aspect to consider is the expected duration of your counseling. While your counselor or therapist might be unable to pinpoint the exact number of sessions needed - which is normal - they should still provide an approximate count of how many sessions you'll undergo and the associated costs. However, the need for additional sessions may increase once you are in sessions and explore your thoughts and concerns. You will want to continue if you see a benefit from these sessions. 

Choosing a counselor who insists on continuing sessions beyond the point of necessity, simply to increase their earnings, is not advisable. 

If you are on a strict budget, seek online counseling services, which can be more cost-effective and flexible.

Placing Convenience Ahead of Quality

You might want to avoid spending time or money on counseling or therapy because you doubt the benefits or question the costs. Yet, many people continue to stay in session and see their counselor because they start seeing the benefits, and it helps that their insurance is often accepted and the office is close by. 

Choosing an affordable or nearby counselor might seem a good way to save time and money. However, if you don't make progress, you could need more sessions or switch counselors later, which can cost you more time and money in the long run.

Holding Back

If you are not honest and open with your counselor or therapist, you are hurting yourself - honesty is critical. Sharing openly can feel intimidating, especially with important issues. However, this approach is crucial for addressing and resolving life's challenges.

Do not hesitate to talk openly and honestly with your counselor, telling them about all relevant details, including aspects you might feel embarrassed about. Establishing a sense of safety with your counselor enhances your willingness to be forthcoming with them.

Disregarding Your Intuition

Listening to your instincts is crucial when choosing a counselor. You need to feel comfortable and trust their skills. If you don't feel a connection or if you feel ignored or misunderstood, it might be time to look for someone else.

Be open with your counselor, especially if you're uncomfortable or feel certain methods aren't helping. A good counselor will appreciate your honesty and work with you to find better solutions.

Failing to Consult with Your Insurance Provider

The price of counseling services can be remarkably steep. Mental Health America's survey indicates that 56% of Americans do not pursue mental healthcare due to a lack of adequate insurance or because the fees are too high. However, having insurance for counseling can reduce some of these costs, making services more economically feasible.

Here's a breakdown of how traditional health insurance, Medicare, and supplements cover therapy/counseling services:

Traditional Health Insurance:

  • Typically covers outpatient mental health services, including individual and group therapy with licensed professionals like psychologists, therapists, and social workers.
  • Coverage can vary depending on your specific plan. Look for details regarding:
  • In-network vs. Out-of-Network Providers:  Using in-network providers typically leads to lower costs.
  • Deductible:  The amount you pay out-of-pocket before insurance kicks in.
  • Copay:  A fixed amount you pay for each therapy session.
  • Coinsurance:  A percentage of the covered cost you share with your insurance company.
  • Limits on Sessions:  Some plans may limit the number of therapy sessions covered per year.


  • Covers outpatient mental health services under Part B (Medical Insurance).
  • This includes individual and group therapy with qualified providers, such as:
  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Clinical social workers
  • Clinical nurse specialists
  • Other licensed professionals allowed by your state
  • Medicare covers:
  • One depression screening per year
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Medication management (if provided by a covered provider)
  • Partial hospitalization programs (more intensive outpatient treatment)
  • Important points to consider: You typically pay a deductible and then 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for covered services.
  • Finding a therapist who accepts Medicare can be challenging due to lower reimbursement rates.

Medicare Supplements (Medigap):

  • These private insurance plans help pay for some of the out-of-pocket costs associated with Original Medicare (Parts A and B).
  • Different Medigap plans offer varying levels of coverage for therapy/counseling.
  • Carefully review plan details to see if they cover copayments, coinsurance, or deductibles related to mental health services.

Therapy/Counseling - Difference in Insurance Coverage?

In most cases, there is no difference in coverage for therapy/counseling services between a counselor and a therapist under traditional health insurance, Medicare, and supplements. Here's why:

  • Focus on Licensure: Insurance typically focuses on the professional's licensure rather than the title of "counselor" or "therapist." Both counselors and therapists can hold licenses that qualify them to provide therapy services and bill insurance. Common qualifying licenses include:
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
  • Psychologist (PsyD or Ph.D.)
  • Verification by Insurance:  Before approving coverage, your insurance company will likely verify the provider's license and confirm they are in-network (if applicable). They won't differentiate based on the title used.

Insurance Exceptions to Consider

  • Specific Plan Details: While rare, some insurance plans might have specific language regarding coverage for certain types of licensed professionals. It's always best to check your plan details for any exceptions.
  • State Regulations:  A few states might have different regulations for counselors and therapists. However, these regulations usually focus on the scope of practice (what conditions they can treat) rather than insurance coverage.

You should check with your insurance company to understand what aspects of counseling/therapy your policy may cover. Your insurance company can also provide a list of counselors within their network located near you. Additionally, websites are designed to help you find counselors who accept insurance.

Here are some resources to help you find out more about coverage details:

The Power of Support, Regardless of Age

Finding a new therapist can be hard, particularly when dealing with other mental health conditions like depression. The benefits of therapy or counseling for older adults can be significant. They can help you:

  • Develop coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety.
  • Improve communication skills in relationships.
  • Address negative thought patterns that might be holding you back.
  • Foster a sense of well-being and acceptance, even when facing difficult circumstances.

Ultimately, therapy or counseling can empower you to live your best life, regardless of age or health challenges. You can navigate life's transitions with greater strength and resilience by seeking professional support and finding the right approach for your needs.

Finding Strength Within Therapy and Counseling in Senior Communities

We all know older adults, many receiving long-term care services and moving into assisted living and other long-term care facilities. Life is hard to deal with without having to deal with the realities of aging. 

If you have a loved one who needs long-term care services, transitioning to a long-term care facility or senior community can be a significant adjustment for many seniors. While these settings provide essential care and support, the emotional toll of leaving familiar surroundings and routines shouldn't be overlooked. This is where therapy and counseling can play a vital role in helping residents navigate this new chapter and improve their overall well-being.

Use the LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory to find quality long-term care services that best match your loved one's needs. With a few clicks, you can search over 80,000 providers that can offer the services they require.

Addressing Common Challenges

Residents in long-term care facilities and senior communities often face a unique set of challenges. Loss of independence, grief over loved ones, and anxieties about the future can take a significant emotional toll. 

Therapy can equip residents with coping mechanisms to manage these challenges.

Therapists can also address issues like depression, anxiety, and social isolation, which are common among older adults. Therapy sessions can provide a safe space for residents to express their feelings, explore underlying concerns, and develop healthy coping strategies.

Beyond Individual Needs

The benefits of therapy extend beyond individual residents. Therapists can also work with families to facilitate communication and navigate the often complex emotions surrounding care decisions. Additionally, group therapy sessions can foster a sense of community and belonging among residents facing similar challenges.

Specialized Care

Many therapists specialize in working with older adults and understand their specific concerns and challenges. They may utilize various approaches to address emotional and cognitive needs, including individual therapy, group therapy, and even creative therapies like art or music therapy.

Improved Quality of Life

Therapy can significantly improve the quality of life for residents in long-term care facilities and senior communities by offering emotional support and guidance. It can empower residents to feel more in control, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and ultimately live more fulfilling lives despite their challenges.

While there may be some stigma in thinking about consolation or therapy, don't allow that to stop you or a loved one from receiving the support they need and deserve to improve their quality of life. 

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About the Author

Marcus Howard is a writer with years of experience in the field of alternative health. He has written extensively on a variety of topics, including CBD, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and the use of alternative health options for older adults.

LTC News Contributor Marcus Howard

Marcus Howard

Contributor since July 5th, 2023

Editor's Note

As you approach retirement, planning for long-term care in advance can significantly reduce your stress and anxiety about the future. Imagine heading into your golden years with the confidence of knowing you have a plan for your long-term care needs. This foresight allows you to focus on enjoying retirement rather than worrying about the "what ifs" of aging.

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Be sure to find a qualified and independent Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you shop and provide accurate quotes from all the top companies. 

Locate Quality Caregivers and Facilities with Ease

Finding quality caregivers, senior communities, and long-term care facilities for your older family members is simpler than ever with the LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory

With over 80,000 listings nationwide, this free and comprehensive tool gives you the power to search for the right caregiver or facility for your loved one. 

Whether you're searching for caregivers or facilities nearby or where you love done lives, the directory makes it effortless to explore qualifications and choices. 

If you're a care provider, you can claim your free listing or upgrade to enhance visibility through the LTC News Directory Business Portal.  

Additionally, when you or a loved one has LTC Insurance, the door to quality care opens wide. When you speak with a potential caregiver or facility, one of the first questions they ask, if not the first question they ask, is, " Do you have LTC Insurance?"

LTC NEWS helps in processing claims from any Long-Term Care Insurance policy. Partnering with Amada Senior Care, a renowned in-home healthcare agency, LTC NEWS ensures that you and your loved ones receive top-quality care without worrying about securing policy benefits. There is no cost or obligation for this service.

Experience peace of mind knowing you can access quality care services when you need them most - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

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