In short anyone who seeks it. Anyone who is struggling. Anyone who wants to make their life better. Happier, simper more authentic. Anyone who looks at their life and wishes that it were different. Counseling is for anyone ready to make change. Ready to live their best life.
The job of your counselor is to be an outsider with an objective vantage point to help you assess, plan and implement changes that will better your life. Going to a trained expert who is objective and will help you make significant changes is just plain smart. Marriages sometimes need a tune-up when communication hits a stalemate. Seeking out a “brain coach” can help you with your lack of confidence or inability to make that important decision.
So what does an appointment with Kristen look like?
• During your first appointment, your rights as a client, state confidentiality laws and limitations of therapy will be given to you in writing or reviewed verbally with you. You will also have paperwork to complete giving Kristen your basic demographic information, insurance information and informed consent to treat.
• Kristen will then sit down with you and get a complete picture of what is going on in your life that has broughtt you in. You can share as much or as little as you want. These first few sessions are focused more on relationship building then problem solving (though that will also be a part of it)
• Kristen will then suggest a treatment plan about how to address the issue(s) at hand. Part of this plan will be the therapist’s best guess as to how long (assuming no new issues arise) the counseling process is likely to take. While this obviously varies given the situation, it is pretty common to work with your therapist for about once a week for a few months.
If you are worried about your privacy and fear that your secrets will get out, realize that all licensed professionals are bound by law to keep confidential what is said and documented in a therapy session. There are exceptions in situations where there is potential suicide or homicide danger, evidence of physical abuse to a minor or an elderly person, or suspicion of sexual abuse of a minor. However, a therapist is obligated to inform you of this at your first appointment.
Choosing a good therapist
• Get referrals. You can check with friends, a school counselor, churches and/or your physician’s office.
• Interview each counselor over the telephone. Ask questions like: What credentials and certifications do you have? How long have you been in practice? What issues do you specialize in? What is your experience in the specific area I am seeking counseling for? How would you approach this type of issue? Do you assign homework? What are your fees? Ask as many questions as you want.
• Choose a therapist and begin. Not all therapists operate the same way. Some will be very interactive. Some may have an “in your face” style. Others will be more subdued and simply reflect back to you what they hear you saying and what they sense you are feeling. Picking a therapist is like buying a new pair of shoes. While there are many quality shoes around, you only buy the pair that fits you. There is no “one size fits all” in counseling. If the counselor doesn’t feel like a fit, don’t buy. While individual styles of therapy vary, it is usually better to choose a counselor who is active, not passive in the session, working with you — not just listening to you.
• Actively work with the therapist. If you disagree, speak up. If you have questions, ask. If the therapist isn’t making sense, seek clarification. The more active you are in the process, the better.
• Realize that you are not “stuck” with a counselor forever. If things are not going well or no clear plan of action is shared with you, speak up. If your personalities don’t match or his/her style is not what you are comfortable with, talk openly about making a change to another therapist.
Not a last resort
When it comes to dealing with the changes, challenges and crises of life, it’s important to seek help early. Don’t wait until that clunking noise turns into total transmission failure. The sooner you seek help, the shorter and easier it will usually be, because there is less of a “mess” to deal with. Counseling isn’t just for people who are drowing; it’s for anyone who can benefit from an outside, objective, expert perspective to help them along this journey of life.