The decision to see a counselor during a difficult time in your life is a very wise one. Common concerns are cost and length of treatment, what does it involve, and how do I know if it’s working? Here are a few tips with which you can prepare yourself to get the most out of your counseling sessions and help yourself feel better sooner.
Write down your list of concerns
What seems to be the trouble? When your counselor asks this question, it’s a lot easier to answer if you already have your thoughts organized on paper. Make a list of the things that are bothering you, and if you have an idea when it began, include the dates. You can also write down any thoughts or ideas during the session too.
Have a specific goal in mind for what you want to accomplish
“I want to feel better” is not a specific goal. Something more like “I want to be motivated to go to work in the morning” or “I want to be able to have a conversation with my mom without feeling burned” are more appropriate. Just be sure that your goal is centered around your own behaviors and feelings. When your goal is to have someone else’s behavior change, as in “I want my husband to pay more attention to me” or “I want my mother to stop nagging me,” be prepared to invite the second party to your counseling sessions. Remember, counselors can only help you change how you feel, not how someone else behaves.
Be open to how long counseling may take
You will have a sense of when you feel satisfied with your progress, but don’t rush it. If you are looking to keep your sessions down to a minimum because of financial concerns, talk about it with your counselor. Be proactive in what “homework” the counselor may assign and do the work. The more work you do outside of your sessions, the more productive they will be. It took you more than 3 sessions to have this problem, it may take more than 3 sessions to heal from the problem.
Tell the counselor the truth
Many times we feel embarrassed by issues we are dealing with, or we don’t want to own our side of the problem. Counseling is your opportunity to “get out of your mind” meaning; all the thoughts you have bouncing around in your mind finally have a place to go. In counseling there is confidentiality, openness and non-judgment. So tell the counselor how you feel and what you are thinking, especially if you are feeling like the counseling isn’t working for you. Talk through your concerns and ask for a referral if you feel you aren’t being heard.
Christian vs. Secular Counseling
Christian counseling is based on Biblical precepts. The Christian counselor may use prayer, scripture, and devotional materials as part of the process. As a Christian, it is important to communicate to the counselor what your beliefs are. A secular counselor may or may not be open to working within those beliefs. It is important to establish this from the beginning of treatment.
Be on time and present for your session
Of course emergencies come up and we may run late or have to cancel. Let your counselor know as soon as you can if this occurs. When you are in session, be present. This means turn off your cell phone. If you are sick, call and reschedule when you are able to think clearly.
Whenever you are unsure of a concept or homework assignment, ask the counselor to clarify. No question is a dumb question and can add value to your counseling experience. The counselor wants to know about anything that may be confusing or misunderstood.
Tears may fall
Many times we are in so much pain that tears will fall during counseling. This is normal and you don’t have to apologize or hold them back. Counseling is usually the one place we are able to release the pent up pain and hurt and that is why the tears come so easily!
Silence can be golden
Some silence in the session is also expected. You may be thinking about something the counselor said, or even processing what you want to talk about next. If you ever feel like the session isn’t going in a direction you want, speak up and let the counselor know what you are feeling.
Counseling works and is work!
You probably feel that your problem is bigger than anyone can solve. Counseling can help us deal with problems, even when there seems to be no solution. Counseling helps us to develop strategies and coping skills, connection and healing in order to help with all that life throws at us. But it takes a commitment from both the counselor and the client. Counseling can redirect our life from hopeless to hope filled!