Who Needs Counseling?
Timothy L. Sanford, M.A., L.P.C.

Reluctance about counseling

“I don’t want to talk to a stranger about all my personal problems.”
“ Counseling costs too much.”
“ It won’t help anyway.”
“ I don’t have the time.”
“ Therapy is for crazy people … and I’m not crazy.”

Are you reluctant to consider counseling for a personal, family or marital problem? Take heart, you’re not alone. Still, it’s important to realize that counseling with a trained professional might be helpful for what you’re facing.

Therapy isn’t the stereotypical picture of you lying on a couch talking about how you were potty-trained. It’s not some individualized version of Analyze This or What About Bob? Quality counseling can help you gain a better understanding of what’s going on in your situation and inside yourself. This awareness can give you a new viewpoint on yourself and your circumstances, help you make good choices and lead to action steps that will change your life. When it feels like you can’t see the forest for the trees, it’s a good time to seek an outside perspective.

It’s not just for crazy people

Corporations hire consultants every day — outsiders with an objective vantage point to help assess, plan and implement changes that will better the company. You take your car to a mechanic when you hear that “clunking” sound, because he knows more about cars than you do. Elite-level athletes frequently elicit specialty coaches to help them improve mental focus and discipline.

People are always seeking outside assistance. It’s no different when the issue is anxiety, perfectionism, depression, lack of confidence, marital discord or an alcoholic spouse. 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. While you may not choose to tell people you are seeking therapy, it’s nothing to be ashamed of — you’re in good company.

What to expect from a therapist

  • 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. The therapist will also give you a written disclosure statement of his/her licensure, other credentials and areas of expertise.
  • The therapist will conduct a thorough assessment of your present situation and important background information. You will be interviewed and possibly given a written psychological assessment to complete.
  • The counselor will then suggest a treatment plan, whether written or verbalized, 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.

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 crazy or weak people; it’s for anyone who can benefit from an outside, objective, expert perspective to help them along this journey of life.

If you’d like to talk with a counselor at TroubledWith, or would like information about counselors in your local area, please visit our “Consider Counseling” page.

:: back ::