When I meet new people and get the standard question, “so, what do you do?” and tell them I am a therapist, I get a range of responses–people are either fascinated, scared that I’m suddenly diagnosing them (don’t worry, I’m not!), or totally confused. Through countless conversations I’ve come to realize that many people don’t actually understand what counseling is and what it could offer them.
Counseling is a unique experience that most people don’t find in other relationships, for good reason.
Let’s take a moment to examine some myths about counseling…
- counseling is for “crazy” people
- it’s for people who are self-indulgent and need attention
- a counselor tells you what you should or should do–it’s basically an advice session where you get schooled in how to live your life
- it’s for weak people who can’t get it together on their own
- counseling requires a long-term commitment where you’ll lay on a couch and be psycho-“analyzed”
The good news is these myths are false. Counseling is much more than this. It is hard to define because it can have different meanings to different people, but if I were forced to write out a definition, it’d be:
Counseling: A safe experience that can help with any type of stress, discomfort, or problem through an interaction with a trained professional.
I’ve emphasized the word interaction, because counseling is indeed a shared experience between a counselor and client where both people are working towards a common goal: to make you feel better. There are over 300 counseling theories and techniques, but the research shows that a positive counseling relationship is the most predictive factor in a person feeling better as a result of counseling.
In the context of this positive counseling relationship where I will always see you through the lens of someone who is simply doing the best they can, counseling can be many different things:
What Counseling is:
- Counseling schools you in emotions—the tough ones that most of us are conditioned not to talk about or truly feel. We learn how to express these emotions, process them, and survive them.
- Counseling can offer a different perspective on your behavior, relationships, communication patterns, and emotions.
- Counseling can help you examine your fears so that you can quiet them in your life.
- Counseling can help you get un-stuck so you can achieve your goals, whether they’re personal or professional.
- Counseling can teach you communication skills to handle conflict with less drama and pain, and can help you get clear on what sets you off to begin with.
- Counseling can help you identify patterns in your thinking that aren’t working for you.
- Counseling is a place to address pain and work through losses with support.
- Counseling can help you get clear on your values, aspirations, and intentions.
- All of this can add up to alleviating anxiety, depression, anger, discontent, overwhelm, relationship problems, perfectionism, lack of focus … the list goes on and on.
Shall we sum it up?
Counseling is a vehicle for living an empowered, authentic, and values-driven life.
What comes with all of this is a bit of work, of daring to try new things, and to being open to a little change.
If it isn’t clear already, I’ll clear it up now: counseling is not an advice session. If I told you what to do, I wouldn’t be doing my job. I’d be failing you and taking away the strength and power I know is in each of us. It is also not a long-term commitment (unless you want it to be).
So if you’re nervous about trying counseling, know these truths:
- Your counselor will view you in the highest regard with tons of awe and respect–we will hold space for you in a safe, comfortable, and judgement-free environment. We know you are brave for starting counseling!
- Most counselors (myself included) offer free phone or in-person consultations before you get started so you can both make sure that you’re a good fit for each other. If you don’t feel comfortable with the counselor after this, a good counselor will take time to give you appropriate referrals to other clinicians they trust that might be a better fit for you.
- If you start counseling and it’s not working for you, you can stop — no strings attached.
- Many counselors (myself included) will work with you on a treatment plan so that you’re both super clear on what your goals are, how to meet those goals, and when those goals will be met by. This ensures that your precious time, money, trust, courage, and vulnerability don’t go to waste.
Ready to see if counseling is a good fit for you? Contact me today.