"When you look at a person, any person, remember that everyone has a story. Everyone has gone through something that has changed them."
Maybe you have put a lot of thought into it and have finally decided that you want to give counseling a try! Yay! I am so happy for you and wish you the best of success on your journey! It will be so worth it in the end! But, before you can begin this journey, you need to find a counselor..... Duh duh duh (daunting music plays). How do you find a GOOD counselor?! This seems to be the million dollar question.
I have talked to many people recently and the resounding story that I continue to hear is one of discouragement. So many people have given counseling a try and have come out feeling worse because they had such a terrible experience with a counselor that they have gone to. This breaks my heart. It truly does, because I know that it takes a lot of courage to decide to go to counseling. Once you have begun the process and have been vulnerable enough to share your story, it is horrible to not have a good experience. I empathize with that feeling. It takes me back to the day that I sat sobbing in a counselor's office just months after losing my brother and feeling like my story didn't matter. (Read more about this experience in my blog, My Story). So, because I have been there, I know that it is not an easy process, and it makes you want to just give up on the whole counseling process all together! This, however, also means that you have given up on working through some difficult areas in your life and therefore you suffer for it. After about 4 years of waiting, I found a tremendous counselor who was well worth the wait for me. However, I am not encouraging you to wait, because this caused some terrible side effects for me. Give it another chance today, allow another counselor an opportunity to help you - don't let a previous experience taint your entire view of counseling.
So how do you know when you have found a good counselor?
1. They Provide a Safe Environment.
A counselor does their job well when they provide an environment that you feel safe and comfortable in. From the beginning, you will feel like the counselor cares about your story and what you are experiencing. It will be easier for you to share your story with them if you are feeling this support. While you are sharing your story, a good counselor will actively listen to what you have to say, and is not just staring at the clock while you are talking. They might show you this through nodding their head, summarizing what you have said, and or making good eye contact. The counselor understands that it was not easy for you to make the appointment and show up to the session. Most counselors have sat in the same chair that you are sitting in and have been a client themselves. They know the discomfort that comes with sharing your story with a complete stranger. Overall, the goal of the counselor is to help you feel comfortable and heard.
2. They Help You Meet Your Goals.
There is a reason that you decided to go to counseling, whether it is to work through some anger issues, depression, anxiety, marriage issues, etc.. In the first few sessions the counselor and client will work together to establish goals that the client would like to reach by the end of the counseling process. After the goals have been established, the client will put steps into place to meet their established goals. It is the counselor's role to keep the session focused to ensure that you are moving in the right direction towards your goals.
3. They Challenge You.
While this may not take place during the first few sessions, it is important that this take place during your time in therapy. This may not be a comfortable feeling or the easiest to hear, but you cannot grow if you are not being challenged. If your whole purpose of going to counseling is to remain the same person you were when you entered, you have wasted a lot of time and money. A counselor acts as an objective, non-judgmental person, to help bring insight into your life. The counselor may challenge you to be more introspective and aware of your thoughts and emotions. While this whole challenging thing may feel uncomfortable, we as people grow through situations like this. It is often the situations that we are most fearful of and uncomfortable in that challenge us to be different. A good counselor has your best interest in mind and is not going to challenge you if they do not feel that you are capable of handling it. Accept the challenge and choose to grow through it rather than be defeated by it.
I encourage you to give counseling another try, or try it out for the first time. There ARE good counselors out there. Don't let a tough experience with a previous counselor completely discourage you. Don't let it stand in the way of you being happier and healthier! You are more important than to let a few bad experiences determine your future. Will you give counseling another chance?
TAKE THE LEAP TODAY!