How can counseling help me? My problems aren’t that big. Do you really think counseling will make a difference?
The most common question I get when I meet with someone new is the quote above. Many times we are scared of the unknown, worried what family or friends may think, or even concerned about the ability to pay for counseling. Today, I hope to share some insight to what you can accomplish in counseling.
The efficacy of treatment for mental illness and substance abuse disorders is well documented and has improved dramatically over the past 50 years.http://www.who.int/whr/2001/en/index.html
The first thing you should know is that making the decision to seek counseling is huge. Many people struggle to make a decision to find a counselor. To me, it shows that you are strong and willing to make yourself a priority. Too often we make comparisons to those around us such as, “they have it worse” and “my problems aren’t that bad.” When we grasp the idea that our problems matter and are important, then we can begin making changes.
The next thing you should know is that counseling is a relationship. This relationship is different because it’s with a licensed professional. This is different than talking with a family member or friend. A licensed professional has a wealth of training and experience to help others identify difficult emotions, thoughts, or behaviors, then make sense of these emotions, thoughts, or behaviors, and what to do with that information. A licensed professional does much more than just talking with you or listening to you.
Mental Illness causes more days of work loss and work impairment than many other chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and arthritis. Approximately 217 million days of work are lost annually due to productivity decline related to mental illness and substance abuse disorders, costing United States employers $17 billion each year.Finch R. A. & Phillips, K. (2005). An Employer’s Guide to Behavioral Health Services: A Roadmap and Recommendations for Evaluating, Designing, and Implementing Behavioral Health Services. Center for Prevention and Health Services. Washington, DC: National Business Group on Health. Available at http://www.businessgrouphealth.org/pdfs/executivesummarymentalhealthreport.pdf.
Another thing you should know is that counseling is goal orientated and focused. During the first session I ask a lot of questions to start understanding where you are currently, where you’ve been in the past, and where you want to be in the future. During this time of asking questions and learning, I get a small snapshot of you and over time I begin to get a better understanding. When I don’t understand something, I ask. When I think more information would be helpful, I ask for you to explain more.
Typically during the first session I ask what you want to accomplish during counseling. This is the time where you can share your goals and insights to what you want to get from counseling. I can help you achieve your goals. Some goals may seem big and others small, but whatever size the goal, I am here to help you work toward them in a non-judgmental approach and view.
A few examples of counseling goals could include:
- I want to be less anxious.
- I want to feel less down and depressed.
- I want to communicate better with my spouse.
- I want to understand and work through my past hurt or trauma.
Because counseling is goal orientated that means that once a goal is achieved, new goals can be added, or the counseling relationship could explore if it’s an appropriate time to end.
According to A Naturalistic Longitudinal Evaluation of Counseling in Primary Care, after patients were provided counseling “there was a significant reduction in severity of symptoms” for anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and quality of life.Baker et al. (2002). A Naturalistic Longitudinal Evaluation of Counseling in Primary Care. Counseling Psychology Quarterly, 15(4), 359-373.
Counseling can help you feel better! I hope this is obvious, but it’s the reason why you attend counseling, to get and feel better. While no guarantees can be given, you are less likely to start feeling better if you make no changes. Speaking of changes, counseling can be tough. Transitioning into a new way of thinking, behaving, or feeling is never easy. It’s normal that counseling may have ups and downs and it’s part of the process.
Finally, counseling is a collaborative effort. My role is to walk the journey with you, help you identify challenges, explore multiple options, and support, and sometimes challenge you. I often tell my new clients that homework is likely to be assigned to practice new skills, read articles and apply during the week, or simply make time to focus on self-care activities. I am here to help you to work on areas of your life that are important to you. Because the relationship is collaborative, it’s important that you attend your scheduled appointments (unless you are ill or emergency). Not attending your appointments makes it difficult to work on your important goals.
I believe that you deserve more than ok. Counseling can help you learn new techniques, process difficult experiences, and learn new coping habits. Ready to make an appointment? Contact me today.
Remember, no great misery goes unnoticed, if you are struggling with your mental health, be sure to reach out to a qualified mental health professional. If you are considering suicide please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, call 9-1-1, or visit the closest emergency room.
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Jeff Simms is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Counselor in private practice in Grand Blanc, Michigan. Jeff works with adults that want to get better dealing with their anxiety, depression, PTSD, and marriage.