Having a good rapport and relationship with a counselor is important. As mentioned previously, counseling can have major impacts on your goals and life. Just like some doctors specialize in a particular area of medicine, so do many counselors.
If you are struggling with depression, you likely wouldn’t want to see a counselor that specializes in couples/marriage counseling. You would want a counselor that is a specialist in depression counseling. If anxiety has taken over your life and it’s difficult to control the worry, you would want a counselor that specializes in anxiety and not child counseling. Remember, a specialist can be a generalist, but a generalist isn’t always a specialist.
So, once you know your why to attend counseling and any possible specialties, what else should you consider or look for in a counselor?
A counselor will be licensed. This should be obvious. A Licensed Professional Counselor is the required licensure for counseling. Other professionals such as social workers and psychologists also provide counseling, but the have different licensure requirements. If you are uncertain what the “alphabet soup” at the end of your counselors name means such as Jeff Simms, MA, LPC, NCC, ask them. My credentials are MA (Masters), LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), and NCC (National Certified Counselor aka Board Certified Counselor).
A counselor should be friendly. I also hope this is obvious. If your counselor is cold and distant, get out of dodge. They need to be someone that you can approach and share with. It’s unlikely that you will open up to a counselor that isn’t friendly or warm. If you are going to build a relationship then a strong rapport, warmth, friendliness, and compassion are essential.
A counselor should be non-judgmental. This is important just like a counselor be friendly. Often the stories shared in counseling are deep and personal. Your family of friends may have judged you and your decisions in the past, but a counselor doesn’t do that. We are here to help you, not judge you.
A counselor won’t tell you what to do. Counselors listen to your story, explore options, process, and help you make your decisions. We walk the path and are along for the journey, but we don’t make your decisions.
A counselor will do more than “just listen.” Yes, a counselor is trained to be great listener, but counseling goes well beyond just listening for 45 minutes. Your counselor will help you identify and process emotions, explore and make connections, use research or evidence based techniques, and may even encourage you at times.
A counselor will provide a safe space for you to be you. Again, this is essential. If the relationship isn’t safe for whatever reasons, it will be difficult to open and share. If you don’t trust your counselor, talk about why you feel uncomfortable.
A counselor will connect you to resources. These resources are things that extend and enhance your counseling sessions. This could be educational reading, referrals to local psychiatrists, books to read, videos to watch, and the handouts they provide during sessions to use during the week.
I believe that you deserve more than ok. 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.