If you’ve never been to counseling before, it may seem scary and unknown. In fact, there’s a chance that the uncertainty of therapy is what has kept you from pursuing it before. What are your perceptions of what counseling is like or the kinds of people who go to counseling? Take a moment to consider what your impressions are and why they may leave you a little nervous about the possibility of making an appointment yourself. Then let’s dig in.
A new perspective on therapy
Going to counseling probably won’t look like what you’ve seen in the movies. You don’t have to lie on the couch and dig all the way back to your first memory with a stranger and a notepad (although you probably could if that’s really what you’re looking for).
Think of counseling like a tool in the toolbox. Depending on what you’re building, growing, or fixing you may need different tools. At some point, therapy may be the most effective or helpful tool for tackling the goals in front of you. There are many stigmas associated with counseling. However, each of us can benefit from an objective party helping us to identify and navigate through different areas of healing and growth. Counselors are clinically trained to help a client identify and work on their goals. A few examples of the kinds of things people may go to counseling for are:
- Wanting to feel less stressed
- Feeling sad after losing someone they love
- Figuring out what they want to do for a job
- Trying to find more happiness
- Struggling through a life transition
- Learning new relationship dynamics
- Getting help with cycles or patterns in their life
- Developing healthier coping skills for when things feel hard
Those things will look different for every person, but do some of those things seem like something you have faced before too? Counseling is meant to help people navigate circumstances like these as they walk through life.
Counseling is a mutual relationship.
A counselor and client work together to form a therapeutic relationship. You can expect to have as much control and say in the session as your therapist will. The therapist is there to seek your best interest. Many clients see the counselor as an authority or expert that analyzes them and tells them what to do. That’s not really how it goes. You and your counselor will work together to figure out how counseling can benefit you and develop steps to meeting your goals together. You should feel the freedom to tell the counselor any worries you have coming into the relationship, as well as ask any questions you have.
Counselors are people.
Just like you discovered your interests and studied for your role in the workplace, so did counselors. They are normal people with lives likely similar to yours outside of the office. Counselors have personalities and mannerisms, as well as different opinions about what makes people who they are. If you’ve experienced a counselor before that you didn’t really click with, then that’s okay! And probably normal. Share what you’re experiencing with your counselor and it will be their job to help you feel comfortable and making progress toward your goals.
Counseling is a safe & protected environment.
There are laws and ethical codes that exist so that your counseling room is a place of safety, privacy and protection. Your story should always be respected and honored with empathy with a counselor. They are also accountable to the counseling board to protect that information and keep it confidential. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but those will be covered in your paperwork and discussed in your first session. You should never be left guessing as to whether what you’ve shared will be kept in confidentiality. Counseling is a space that allows you to be open knowing that the information you share is safe and that your counselor will help you to process it and know how to protect you in it.
The first session is the warmup.
In your first session, you will cover a lot of the basics. Before you go into your appointment, you’ll receive some paperwork. That paperwork may be helpful for clarifying some questions you may have and explaining some of the parameters of counseling. Your counselor will come to get you, and you’ll likely be meeting for the first time. You’ll introduce yourselves, and then he/she will likely ask you what’s bringing you into counseling. There are no wrong answers here. You can be honest about what you’re thinking in the moment- even if the answer is “I don’t know.” Don’t worry too much about knowing what to say when. Your counselor should help direct your conversation and steer you in the right direction.
You’ll probably go over some of the paperwork that was mentioned before- seeing if you have any questions and making sure that you understand everything that was included. Then your counselor will ask you some questions to get to know you a little bit better.
Most of the time, the first session is more introductory. It allows you to get to know your counselor, get comfortable in the session, and make some goals for future sessions. Don’t be surprised if you don’t feel like you accomplished much afterward. This first session is critical to establishing the relationship and getting started. The fact that you completed the session is an accomplishment in and of itself! Trust the process, and expect to dig a little deeper in your next session.
If you have any questions about the counseling process, one of our Crossroads counselors would be happy to talk with you for an introductory phone call to help ease your mind and make you a little more comfortable with taking this next step. You can get in touch with us for an introductory call at (225) 341-4147.