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5 TIPS for a Successful Counseling or Psychotherapy Experience.

Therapist working with a couple looking happy

Successful Counseling or Psychotherapy Experience Tip No. 1 - Consistency

Many people believe that they can stop by their counselor's office every few months, and this will be enough. However, this is not the case. Counseling, specifically what is referred to as talktherapy, requires consistent attendance, usually weekly, to be the most effective. In some cases, twice a week might be required. Some types of therapy, such as psychoanalysis, require attendance at least three times per week. While counseling styles and theories vary, and some counseling theories focus on behavioral changes or the use of specific techniques such as Brainspotting or GottmanMethod for couples, counseling or psychotherapy is, first and foremost, an introspective process. This means your internal emotional processes and experiences are most important.

Tip No. 2 - 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 emotionally challenging. Still, you need to talk with your counselor about these difficulties so that they can help you figure out what’s going on. For example, if you’re afraid of flying and you don’t tell your counselor this information, how are they going to help you? They cannot.

Tip No. 3 - Likability

Find a therapist that you like. Most therapists today have a website with information about their training, style of work, and the types of problems with which they help clients. Most therapists have pictures of themselves on their websites, and many people look at the pictures and make a decision if that person seems like someone they might be able to work with. Don’t let the pictures be your only guide, though. Give the therapist a call and talk with them for a few minutes. Most therapists provide a free brief phone conversation, usually up to 15 minutes.

Tip No. 4 - 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 a 7 a.m. appointment unless this appointment time truly works 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. However, I would encourage you to talk with your counselor before you fire them. This gives the counselor an opportunity to take any corrective actions. Of course, if you’re constantly changing counselors, you may want to think about that and make that a priority in your selection of a new counselor. Be honest. Tell the potential new therapist your challenges with finding a good match.

Tip No. 5 - Professionalism

Your counselor should be respectful of you, and you should be respectful of your counselor. The biggest factor of a successful counseling experience is your relationship with your counselor or psychotherapist. It’s challenging to develop a meaningful therapeutic relationship with someone who you do not respect. Your counselor or psychotherapist should never call you names, laugh at you, demean you, insult you, or do 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.

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