I cannot tell you how many times I have heard these two questions. There was a time in my life when I asked something very similar. I think of the many movies, YouTube videos, and TV shows where there is an older person, a tweed coat, and a long couch. Some of you may have similar pictures roaming around in your mind. Some of you may be fearful because you have heard of psychoanalysis and that it must be some mind trick or mind reading game that takes place in counseling. And yes, some people think the only question we ask is “how does that make you feel?”.
If you’ve had any of these thoughts, or if any of those images run through your mind, that’s okay! I have to laugh a little when I watch certain movies that portray counseling or support groups with humor or with exaggeration (most of it is an extreme exaggeration). What I would encourage you with is that counseling is much, much more than that. Yes, psychoanalysis exits, but most counselors aren’t looking to “read or mind”. In fact, they are using theories and techniques to help you understand you. Change can occur in so many different ways. Each counselor you meet will have some ideas and theories about how change is brought about. Don’t be scared of older counselors. Yes, some of them may have glasses, scratch their chin, and/or say “mm hmm” a lot. However, most typically have years of experience and have been working with people for a long time. We don’t bite.
But still, what is counseling? Why would you seek out counseling? Let me address these.
First, counseling is for anyone and everyone. I describe it as a process. You start with getting to know each other just like you would anywhere else you meet someone new. Together, you will establish some rules/boundaries that are comfortable for you and also meet professional/ethical standards for your counselor. But then after that, where you go and what you talk about is entirely up to you! You can talk about anything in counseling. Sometimes you may do art, play a game, or even move or walk around. Counselors and/or therapists are professionally trained to walk with you through whatever events or feelings you are experiencing. Counselors encourage and support you in positive times and are there to support, be a sounding board, and help you navigate life during difficult times.
I’ve been very thankful for my personal counselor. (Yes, counselors have counselors too!) One of my supervisors always told me, “every good therapist has a therapist”. Sound advice.
The last few items I’d want you to know about counseling would be from my experience in it. I want you to know that we practice what we preach.
• First, counseling is ALL about you so take advantage of it. Your counselor will guide you and explain limits and some rules, but after that, make counseling your own and make it work for you.
•Secondly, sometimes it takes a few weeks to get to know whether or not your counselor will be a “fit” for you. You will want to feel comfortable, like yourself, and feel regular when you go. Sometimes, different counselors fit different clients better than others. It’s OKAY if you don’t like your first counselor. Don’t give up. Talk about it with them, and see if they have any suggestions to refer you.
•Thirdly, the more you are honest and communicate, the better. I tell my clients, the most important thing they can do for me is to be completely honest with me. Sometimes that means telling me that they are scared out of their minds to be in counseling. I love that because that’s where we’ll start.
Hopefully this eases some anxiety about the decision of whether or not to pursue counseling. Remember, it is all up to you. Seek out some advice from those close to you, but ultimately, remember that counselors are there to assist you. At the end of the day, we are all responsible for what we say and do. Don’t be discouraged if it takes some time for you to be ready to start. When you are ready, you will!
Feel free to ask any questions about counseling! We at Turning Point would be more than willing to talk to you about the process and help you find what you are looking for. If we aren’t it, we will help you find what “it” is!
Andy Bautz, MA, LMFT
Why Counseling? What is it anyway?
A message from the Executive Director