Five Tips For A Successful Counseling or Psychotherapy Experience
Counseling or psychotherapy is beneficial for most who truly try it. One or two sessions is not trying it. While no counselor or psychotherapist can guarantee results, the process is often quite beneficial leading to things such as higher self esteem, improved coping skills, healthier relationships, decreased anxiety and depression, recovery from eating disorders, recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and improved overall life satisfaction.
Consistency. Many people believe that they can just drop by the #counselor’s office on occasion every few months and this will be enough. However, this is not the case. Counseling requires consistent attendance, usually weekly, to be the most effective. In some cases twice a week might be required. Some types of psychotherapy such as psychoanalysis requires at least 3 times per week attendance. While counseling styles and theories vary and some counseling theories focus on behavioral changes or the use of specific techniques counseling or psychotherapy is first and foremost an introspective process. This process is dependent upon how you feel or experience your relationship with your counselor or psychotherapist. It’s difficult to develop a meaningful therapeutic relationship with someone who you see once every 6 months.
Honesty. If you’re not going to be honest with your counselor then there really is no need to go to counseling. Being honest in counseling can sometimes be quite difficult but you need to talk with your counselor about these difficulties so that s/he can help you figure out what’s going on for you. For example, if you’re thinking that your partner is cheating on you and you don’t tell your counselor this information how is s/he going to help you to address this situation? The answer is your counselor or psychotherapist will not be able to help you with this or any other issue if s/he does not know about it.
Likability. Find a counselor or psychotherapist that you like. Most counselors today have a website with information about their training, style of work and the types of problems for which clients see them. There are usually pictures of the counselor and many people look at the picture and make a decision if that person seems like someone they might be able to work with. Don’t let the picture be your only guide though. Give the therapist a call and talk with her/him for a few minutes. Most counselors provide a free brief phone conversation usually up to 15 minutes for you to screen them. Be aware though the counselor is most likely screening you as well therefore at the end of the conversation the counselor may decide that s/he is not the best match for you. If that is the case, ask the counselor if s/he knows someone to whom you can be referred. Try not to take it personally if the psychotherapist says s/he would not be a good match for you. Don’t be afraid to change counselors if you find that the counselor is not being helpful to you. You can usually tell by the 5th or 6th session if it’s working or not. Of course, if you’re constantly changing counselors you may want to think about this and make this a priority issue with your next counselor.
Accessibility. Ideally, your counselor should have an office near where you work or live. Sometimes this is not always possible if you live in a more suburban or rural area. Try not to set yourself up for failure by selecting a counselor who is a 2 hour drive away or only has 7am appointment times unless this appointment time truly works for you.
Professionalism. Your counselor should be respectful of you and you should feel respected while working with a counselor. Your counselor should never call you names, laugh at you, demean you, insult you or anything else that would be inappropriate. Although seen in movies and on TV, it is rare that a counselor has sex with clients but just in case, you should not be having sex with your counselor. Your counselor should explain to you their office policies including cancellation policy. Do not be surprised when these policies are enforced. Your counselor should a) belong to a professional association that requires her/him to adhere to a certain professional code of conduct and ethics, b) if your counselor is in training s/he needs to be under supervision of another licensed mental health professional, c) if not in training your counselor needs to be licensed by the jurisdiction where you reside or plan to get your counseling i.e. if you live in New Jersey but work in New York and get counseling in New York your psychotherapist should be under supervision or licensed in New York.