Pick a Counselor, Any Counselor!
No. Do not do that. Do not go with just anyone with a license into a closed room and tell them your deepest, darkest, scariest, most vulnerable parts of yourself.
If you're ready to do some of your work, this is what I suggest…
Call your insurance company to see if your policy covers mental health. You can also call it "counseling" or sometimes they will call it "behavioral health." They should be able to tell you how much you will pay, how many sessions you are covered for and even give you a list of local providers who are in-network with them.
If your insurance doesn't cover—don't fret! Many counselors will see clients who pay directly, and often they have a sliding fee scale to make it affordable. But you need a plan in place to make sure you can pay for the services you'll receive. If you're a young adult, often parents are more than willing to support your ongoing emotional development by pitching in.
Think about why you're going. When you get in contact with a counselor, they are likely going to ask you what is going on in your life that brought you in. You can phrase it in the form of a problem ((e.g. "I'm feeling depressed." "My relationship sucks." "I can't seem to stop thinking about _____." "I'm realizing some of the things that have happened to me have really hurt me.")
Think about what you want to accomplish by going. What do you want to be able to do/think/feel if the counseling goes well? (e.g. "I'd like to be able to calm down." "I'd like to be able to get out of bed in the morning." "I'd like to feel close to my friend again.") The more specific you can be with this, the more productive your time with the counselor will be. These will likely be your goals.
Ask the people you know and trust who they see and if they like the work their counselor does. This is THE best way to find someone trustworthy.
If that's not an option, or you're not ready to tell anyone else that you see a counselor, I would suggest calling a few places and asking what kind of counseling they do. Just having a brief (10 min or less) conversation with someone will give you a better idea if they're a good fit for you. Be prepared to give a short synopsis of what's happening in your life that has helped you see you might could use some help. Many counseling businesses have someone specifically on staff to dole out appropriate referrals to the appropriate counselors, so you may not talk to the counselor directly. A phone call is a WAY better way to see if the place is a good fit (rather than an email or text).
When you go in the first time, think of it as a try-out. The counselor is the one trying out, not you. It's like an interview. Feel free to ask any questions you have to see if the counselor is a good fit for you. Good counselors will explain their process and what you should expect from your time with them. They will ask for some of your story, as well as your goals for counseling. The real work will start in session two.
DON'T JUST ACCEPT BAD SERVICE. If it's not a good fit, don't feel pressure to go back. Even if the counselor is a great counselor, they may not be a good fit for you. You need to feel like they get you, understand you, hear you. And if you don't feel safe, DEFINITELY don't go back. You can always try another counselor. For such a vulnerable process, it's very important that you feel safe and understood. If you're worried about offending them, just remember that they were the one trying out, not you. Customer is king. It's completely appropriate to just say, "Thank you. I'll call you when I want to come back in," rather than setting another appointment. You don't owe them a second appointment.