How to Get the Most out of Counseling
Reaching out for help is difficult. Add on to that a depressive episode, anxiety or struggling through life changes and it can make going to therapy seem impossible. Many of my clients are nervous during their first visit and have no idea what to expect. Although everyone’s experiences are going to vary, I think there are some things to keep in mind to help you get the most out of counseling.
Finding the best therapist for you might take time. Try to be patient with the process. Ask friends or family members (if you’re comfortable) if they have any first hand experience and/or recommendations. Go online and look at websites-most therapists have bios on their pages that can give you an idea of what they’re like and what their specialties are. When you call the office to make an appointment, see what their availability is. Is this someone that could see you weekly or are they frequently booked out for months at a time?
The first time you meet with a therapist can be nerve wracking. It might be helpful to write some things down about what you’ve been struggling with so you can give them a full picture. More than likely, there will be paperwork to complete that will cover what you’re currently experiencing as well as your history. Some of the questions may seem unrelated to what you’re going through now, but try to be as open as possible. If you’re not comfortable answering some questions right away-that’s ok. Just let your counselor know you’re not really there yet. If you feel like the therapist is pushing or pressuring you to talk about things you’re not ready to discuss, feel free to express your feelings and ultimately you can decide if they are the right therapist for you to continue seeing. All counselors have different styles and use various methods and you may not be compatible with some of those styles – it’s ok to find someone that works in a way you’re comfortable with.
Some time ago I had a potential client come in for her initial assessment with a list of questions for me-she essentially was interviewing me to be her therapist! I was impressed with her ability to verbalize, and ask for, what she needed and wanted from a counselor. It isn’t expected that you come to your initial appointment ready to interview the therapist-but if you have questions, it’s important to ask!
With that being said, I do want to impress upon you that some questions may be unnecessary. I have heard many people say they think only a therapist “who is __________” (you can fill the blank in with just about anything; a parent, married, older, younger, etc.) could really know how they feel and, therefore, be able to help them. If this is your thinking, I would challenge you to try to look beyond those attributes. Counselors do not get their ability to help from their own personal experiences-they get it from years of study, supervision, mentoring and research. Sometimes their personal experiences may make them seem more empathetic or relatable, however, having rigid, exclusionary criteria can make it more difficult to find a person that works for you.
While finding the right therapist for you is important, it is also helpful to remain engaged in therapy. Attend appointments as they’re scheduled, complete homework if it’s assigned and always be as honest as possible. If you find yourself cancelling sessions often or not doing homework-bring it up with your therapist. Chances are there are reasons you’re not staying engaged and your therapist can help figure out what the barriers may be. It’s always ok to tell your counselor if you don’t think what you’re doing is helping. This level of honesty is typically appreciated and can move things forward. There is often more than one way to accomplish goals set in therapy.
Hopefully these suggestions show just how painless starting therapy is. Counseling can be a wonderful tool to help you through whatever difficult times you may be going through. Finally ready to take that first step? Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced counselors.