What Can I Expect from Counseling?
The decision to begin counseling is an important one. It represents an investment of time and resources. As with any investment, there is a desire for some gain or value. Clients have reported both a greater level of comfort and more favorable results when they understand what to expect from the counseling process.
Counseling provides an opportunity for individuals to learn to make better decisions, improve personal skills, develop increased confidence, overcome blocks to personal effectiveness, and acquire a keener awareness and appreciation of their needs and the needs of others. Exploring and expressing feelings, examining beliefs or ways of thinking, reflecting on patterns of behavior, and working to make healthy changes, are all ways clients can expect to communicate with a counselor. The counseling process is a unique relationship of two (or more) people in dynamic interaction.
To get the most from your counseling investment, consider the following suggestions:
• Attend scheduled sessions;
• Be specific about the concerns that led to your decision to seek counseling;
• Establish with your counselor desired goals and outcomes to be achieved in counseling;
• Discuss your progress with your counselor as you go along, and modify your goals if necessary;
• Participate actively, and be as open and honest as possible;
• Be prepared for your sessions;
• Complete (or at least attempt) any homework assignments;
• Tell your counselor if you do not think the sessions are helping.
Successful counseling is a joint process requiring your motivation and active involvement. The more actively you participate, the more effective counseling will be for you. You can expect to notice change in about six sessions, although the time to complete your work varies from person-to-person. Your counselor may also recommend that you schedule a medication evaluation with a qualified physician, such as a psychiatrist. The counselor and psychiatrist work as a “treatment team” to coordinate your care. Studies show that the combined effects of counseling and medication often enhance the treatment effect.
Myths about Counseling
There are many myths about the counseling process. Here are some of the common ones:
MYTH 1: Counseling is only for people with serious emotional problems.
FACT: Many individuals pursue counseling for a variety of reasons including:
• To enhance self-esteem, or communication skills;
• To strengthen relationships with loved ones and friends;
• For deciding on a career change or to enhance employment opportunities;
• For the development of mind, body and spirit.
MYTH 2: Seeking counseling is a sign of weakness.
FACT: There is nothing weak about a person who seeks counseling. In fact, it takes courage to explore sensitive feelings and painful experiences. Permitting someone to help you is actually a sign of personal strength.
MYTH 3: The counselor will tell you what to do and how to “fix” your problems.
FACT: Counseling is not a “quick fix” cure to your problems. The counselor employs methods to assist you in exploring thoughts, feelings and concerns, as you examine your options and choices.
MYTH 4: The counselor cannot understand you unless he/she has had similar experiences or is of the same background.
FACT: Counselors are trained to be sensitive to and respectful of individual differences, including those regarding gender, race or ethnicity, culture, religion, age, sexual preference, and socioeconomic status.
Types of Counseling
Depending on your goals, a counselor may recommend one or more of the following methods:
• Individual counseling provides an opportunity to learn to make better decisions, improve one’s relationships, and generally increase personal effectiveness. With the help of a counselor, a person can explore feelings and express them better, examine beliefs, and work toward making healthy changes.
• Group counseling offers an individual the opportunity to understand feelings and change problem behaviors with the support of peers with similar concerns. There are general therapy groups as well as groups addressing particular issues. Groups encourage teamwork. Outcome studies show that group participants consistently rate a sense of belonging as being one of the most important factors in overcoming their problems. The collective wisdom of a group of peers can be an enriching experience.
• Couples counseling is available to partners who want to improve an intimate relationship. The counselor guides these individuals to develop effective communication skills, mutual understanding, and rational problem-solving strategies.
Choosing to work with a counselor is an important decision. Knowing what to expect from counseling can help you make an informed choice. We hope that the above information provides some guidance to you. If you need more information, or if you have any questions, please contact us.
With warm regards,
Frank Morelli, M.A.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor