Not a parent? Don’t check out just yet. Counseling may still be right for you.
If you’re wondering “Should I do counseling?” it doesn’t matter whether you are a parent, plan to be a parent, or even do not plan to be a parent: your life and actions impact other people. Happy, healthy individuals set in motion series of actions that support and encourage others. If you are unhappy and have unhealthy thinking patterns, this will also affect those around you… and not for the better. You may find that you have thinking patterns like this:
- “I can’t…”
- “It doesn’t matter what I do…”
- “It’s too late for me…”
- “I’ll just mess it up…”
- “If only my mom/husband/sister/cat would stop…”
If your inner voice sounds powerless, chances are that you feel like life is happening to you instead of you happening to life. The power of choice and influence is integral to a sense of happiness. Those who think they can, do. Those who think they can’t, don’t. The thing is, you may not even realize that you are thinking or acting in a hurtful way. Counseling is an effective way to recognize the cycles at work in our lives.
When we are in pain or under stress, sometimes we take shortcuts called “coping mechanisms” and while these can be lifesavers, many are not effective for long-term health.
Mental health is like physical health in that sometimes you need a “spotter,” someone to keep an eye out that the way you’re doing your heavy lifting is the most effective way to be healthy. Counseling provides the setting to have someone on your team looking for the postures that can best support healthy patterns and ways to amend the ones that cause long-term damage. While it may not always be right for everyone, most of us could benefit from some assisted reflection.
You may find that “Should I do counseling?” is your subconscious asking for what you need: the opportunity to hear your own voice out loud and provide an awareness that you did not have before.
So for the love of children, others, and yourself, get happy and healthy! Find a therapist who can help you become the person you want to be and understand what you need to work through. Recognizing negative patterns is key to stopping them. When it is time to re-route these patterns, having an attentive counselor there to help you unpack the issue and re-construct a happier way of being is priceless.
Still looking for more reasons? Check out: Top 10 Reasons You Should Start Counseling
You may also be interested in: What You May Not Know About Counseling
Signs of Effective Counseling
How to identify when you are in counseling that works
If you’re going into counseling for the very first time, it can be difficult to know how to gauge the process. How do you know if therapy is going to work for you? And how will you be able to tell if you should switch to a different counselor? Not all therapists are the same — they use different methods and have different personalities. So, not all counselors will be effective for YOU.
Here are some things to look for when you’re considering if your counseling is going well and will be effective in treating your issues. Signs of effective counseling may be different for each person, but these basic rules are a good place to start.
1. Comfort Level With the Counselor
Research has shown that the level of compfort a client feels with her therapist will have a big impact on how successful the process is. If feel at ease in your counselor’s office, there is a better chance that the counseling will be effective. If, on the other hand, your counselor makes you unfomfortable — you should look for a better fit. You won’t be as likely to open up in front of someone you just don’t feel comfortable with.
Another way to get an idea about if therapy is effective for you is by looking at if the therapist can explain the roadmap of your sessions. Your counselor should be able to lay out the work that you will do, why, and how it will effect your current patterns. You should know why she is asking certain questions, so that you aren’t in the dark about where your sessions are going. If your counselor makes you feel confused and can’t articulate the roadmap, you should ask her to be more clear.
3. Getting to the Root of Issues
In order for counseling to really work, you need to dig deper than your surface emotions. One sign of effective counseling is if your counselor talks about getting to the root of your problems. That means figuring out where feelings like anger or hurt started — once you identify the incident or trauma that is at the root of your emotions, you can begin to really work through it. An effective counselor will want to get to the root of your issue.
4. Hope and Clarity
If counseling is going somewhere, you will start to see hope and clarity. Therapy doesn’t work overnight, so you won’t just wake up one day with all of your issues solve no matter who your counselor is. But, if your sessions are effective you will start to see a light at the end of the tunnel and notice changes in your life.
5. The Therapist “Gets” You
There is a certain feeling you get when someone really understainds you. If you can build a report with your counselor and feel like she/he understands you, chances are the two of you will get farther in making positive changes to your life.
What You May Not Know About Counseling
Hint: It’s not as scary as you think!
One of the main reasons people tell me they avoid counseling is they just don’t know what to expect. And let’s face it — what we don’t know can create a great deal of fear. To make matters worth, you may have heard a myth or horror story about counseling that makes you even less likely to go. Fortunately, going to counseling isn’t nearly as scary as you are making it out in your mind.
Here are some items of what you may not know about counseling; once you’ve read about it, my hope is that you won’t be afraid to pick up the phone and reach out for help!
1. Counseling does not equal medication.
If you see a psychologist, he or she may recommend that you take medication if your particular situation warrants it. However, going to therapy does NOT mean that you need to take or will be recommended to take any medication. Counselors will first try to figure out a way you can use cognitive tools and coping mechanisms to get through your problems or anxiety. If you visit a MFT like me, the counselor won’t even be able to prescribe medication.
2. There are different methods of therapy.
Different counselors come from different schools of thought. For instance, I come from the stand point of emotionally focused therapy, but other counselors might use very different methods. This means 2 things: first, if you research your counselor’s method beforehand you will have a better idea of what to expect. Second, if you have a bad experience with one counselor, you might just need to find someone who uses a different method — not quit counseling altogether.
3. You don’t have to be in dire straits to attend counseling.
Some people think that they must be in a very bad place to go to counseling. If you or your relationship are in a bad place — that’s OK, a counselor won’t judge you. But you don’t have to be on the edge of disaster to enter into counseling. Your counselor will meet you where you are, so to speak, so you don’t need to worry about your counselor having any preconceived notions about you before counseling begins. We see all different types of clients, and the first session will be all about figuring out what you need.
4. You help guide the process.
Counseling isn’t what you see on TV — you won’t lay on a couch while the counselor takes notes and then tells you what to do or asks intimidating questions. In reality, you are very involved with the direction of your therapy. Together, you and your counselor will figure out the root of any pain points and work to improve things. You won’t have to feel out of control; the goal is for you to feel empowered!
Some clients will come in once a week for counseling, and some less frequently. Similarly, I might see some clients for many months, and others for a shorter time period. In the end, we will decide the best course of action based on your needs, but counseling doesn’t have to take up a huge amount of time. You might be surprised to learn that some clients only meet with a counselor for a few sessions.
What You May Not Know About Counseling might just keep you stuck in your world. Seek help.
What to Expect
During your first therapy session, your therapist will probably begin a pretty casual conversation, where you can explain why you came in for an appointment. It’s not what you see in the movies – you won’t lay on a couch while the counselor just sits there and looks bored. Once your therapist gets to know more about you, she will begin to ask you questions and then give you some tools for how to move forward. If you are in couples counseling, the therapist is there to be a neutral party who listens to both people and then helps guide the conversation between the couple. Couples often think of me as the only un-biased person in their lives, and that’s what a counselor is for — someone who won’t take a side. A therapist will help you build healthy communication patterns and deal with conflict as a discussion and not an argument.
Counseling can help you build self-esteem, heal past trauma, and overcome issues like anger and body images. Even though searching for a counselor in a city as big as San Diego might seem overwhelming, building a better you is well worth it!
You should go to counseling if…
Whether you lose a family member, pet, or friend, grieving the death of a loved one is a difficult process. You might be crying one minute, laughing the next, and then experiencing guilt over having a smile. These feelings are complex, and going to counseling will help you navigate the road of grief in a safe and constructive way.
Long-term sadness or depression makes you less motivated, can damage your relationships, and definitely reduces the quality of your life. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, counseling will help you get to the root of the issue, and your therapist can make a recommendation about whether or not medication could be of service.
Sure, we all feel nervous sometimes, like before a big job interview. But if anxiety is interfering with your daily life, you struggle to leave the house or complete everyday tasks, and you feel yourself withdrawing from friends — it’s time to talk to someone. Chronic anxiety can be the result of an issue like general anxiety disorder, or derived from a specific fear. In either case, counseling helps you get to the bottom of things.
4. Low Self-Esteem:
Building the strongest you possible doesn’t happen overnight. If you have been bullied, or just have a tendency to think negative thoughts about yourself, you may need some help increasing your self-esteem. Counseling is a way to rewire the way you talk to yourself and start to focus on positive things.
5. Life Changes:
Moving to a new city, getting married, or having a baby are very exciting times, but any change can yield some stress and turmoil. Going though a major life change is often a good reason to enter counseling. If the change is less than happy, say a divorce, then counseling might be an essential component of getting your bearings back.
If you experience a traumatic event, such as rape or a horrible accident, counseling will help you identify your feelings and learn how to move past the trauma. You might also need counseling if you experienced trauma in the past that you never dealt with.
7. Anger Issues:
If you don’t get to the bottom of anger, it can jeopardize your home life and professional reputation. You will have festering feelings that are bound to pop up at bad times and in ways that can hurt others. At worst, they might even lead to violence. Anger management is a very serious issue, and counseling will help you develop coping mechanisms as well as figure out the root of your anger.
If you and your significant other are not communicating, counseling is an excellent way to get back on track. The counselor will serve as an impartial mediator, giving an objective look at what she sees missing in your communication. Counseling will give you tools to communicate in a safe way with your partner, as well as the other people in your life.
9. Confusing Emotions:
If you are feeling overwhelming feelings of any kind, counseling is an excellent step. When you’re crying, feeling nervous, or having swings of emotion that you just can’t explain, you should always address the issue.
When there has been infidelity in a relationship, rebuilding the trust takes time. Counseling is very crucial to finding your way back to a place where you can trust each other and have a fulfilling relationship again.
If you recognize any of these within yourself or someone you love, consider reaching out for help.