How can counseling help me?
A number of benefits are available from participating in counseling. Therapy can provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping strategies for issues such as depression, anxiety, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, grief, stress management, body image issues, and creative blocks.
Many people also find that counselors can be a tremendous asset to managing personal growth, interpersonal relationships, family concerns, marriage issues, and the hassles of daily life. Counselors can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from counseling depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn.
Some benefits of counseling:
Attaining a better understanding of yourself, your goals, and values
Developing skills for improving your relationships
Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek therapy
Learning new ways to cope with stress and anxiety
Managing anger, grief, depression, and other emotional pressures
Improving communication and listening skills
Changing old behavior patterns and developing new ones
Discovering new ways to solve problems in your family or marriage
Improving your self-esteem and boosting self-confidence
Do I really need therapy? I can usually handle my problems.
Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced, there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, counseling is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you're at in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking counseling. Therapy provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face.
Why do people go to counseling and how do I know if it is right for me?
People have many different motivations for coming to counseling. Some may be going through a major life transition (unemployment, divorce, new job, etc.), or are not handling stressful circumstances well. Some people need assistance managing a range of other issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship problems, spiritual conflicts, and creative blocks. Therapy can help provide some much needed encouragement and help with skills to get them through these periods. Others may be at a point where they are ready to learn more about themselves or want to be more effective with their goals in life. In short, people seeking counseling are ready to meet the challenges in their lives and ready to make changes in their lives.
What is therapy like?
Because each person has different issues and goals for counseling, counseling will be different depending on the individual. In general, you can expect to discuss the current events happening in your life, the personal history relevant to your issue, and report progress (or any new insights gained) from the previous counseling session. Depending on your specific needs, therapy can be short-term, for a specific issue, or longer-term, to deal with more difficult patterns or your desire for more personal development. Either way, it is most common to schedule regular sessions with your counselor (usually weekly).
It is important to understand that you will get more results from counseling if you actively participate in the process. The ultimate purpose of therapy is to help you bring what you learn in session back into your life. Therefore, beyond the work you do in counseling sessions, your counselor may suggest some things you can do outside of counseling to support your process - such as reading a pertinent book, journaling on specific topics, noting particular behaviors, or taking action on your goals. People seeking counseling are generally ready to make positive changes in their lives, are open to new perspectives, and take responsibility for their lives.
What about medication vs. psychotherapy?
It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Instead of just treating the symptom, counseling addresses the cause of our distress and the behavior patterns that impede our progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness. Working with your medical doctor you can determine what's best for you, and in some cases a combination of medication and counseling is the right course of action.
Does what we talk about in counseling remain confidential?
Confidentiality is one of the most important components between a client and counselor. Successful therapy requires a high degree of trust with highly sensitive subject matter that is usually not discussed anywhere but the counselor's office. Every counselor should provide a written copy of his or her confidential disclosure agreement, and you can expect that what you discuss in session will not be shared with anyone. This is called “Informed Consent." Sometimes, however, you may want your counselor to share information or give an update to someone on your healthcare team (your physician or attorney), but by law your counselor cannot release this information without obtaining your written permission.
However, state law and professional ethics require counselors to maintain confidentiality except for the following situations:
Suspected past or present abuse or neglect of people who are considered vulnerable, such as children, handicapped adults, and elderly individual will be reported to the authorities, including local child protective services and law enforcement, based on information provided by the client or other sources.
If the counselor has reason to suspect the client is seriously in danger of harming him/herself or has threatened to harm another person.