When someone hears the word counseling, the two most common responses received are: 'Do I have to lay on a couch when I talk to you?" and "Are you going to ask me, 'how does that make you feel'?"
No, neither of the above. You can sit in a chair, on the floor, frankly -- wherever you feel most comfortable. Yes, we will talk about your feelings, but we do not ask you over and over, "so how does that make you feel?" The way that counseling is portrayed in the movies is often times not that accurate.
Many people do not know what counseling looks like or the process of it. So, I thought I would write a blog to give you an idea.
Counseling is a collaborative process between the Client and Therapist. You, as the Client typically share the issue that you are experiencing with your Therapist and then determine what goals you want to accomplish throughout the counseling process. Together, you discuss how you would like to accomplish the goals that you set into place.
Counseling can be a scary and daunting experience that is often avoided by many. Yes, the process can be difficult, but it is worth it in the end. Counseling can provide such refreshment to one’s life and can bring complete transformation.
Layout of Session
So what does a session look like? Usually the first session is filling out paperwork and briefly talking about what has brought you into counseling. Then usually there are goals established that the client wants to work towards accomplishing. Throughout future sessions, the issues discussed in the first session are processed and the steps necessary to reach the intended goal(s) are executed. (e.g. I want to work through some marriage issues that I am experiencing that are caused from miscommunication and my needs not being met. Therefore, the communication styles that are used by my partner and I may be discussed and anything that might be contributing to our miscommunications will be looked at. Usually, the dysfunctional ways of communication will be addressed and suggestions will be made by my husband and I or the Therapist on how they can be changed. As far as my needs go, it would need to be determined what my needs are and then discussed on how they could better be met or how I could better communicate them to my partner.) It would be more in depth than this, but these are just a few examples.
Duration of Counseling
There really is no set amount of time that is set for how long you should pursue counseling. The only thing that can determine the amount of time that you are in counseling is insurance. Usually insurance will only pay for a certain amount of counseling sessions. However, if you are able to pay for counseling privately, there is no cap on how many sessions you can have. It usually depends on what you are experiencing. My goal as a Therapist is to give you the tools that you need to be able to not only work through the current situation, but also future situations that could be similar. It is not my goal to keep you dependent and in counseling forever. All in all, there is no right or wrong for how long you are in counseling. If it tends to be a longer process for you, thats okay. You might have more things that need to be worked through than others, but there is no shame in that. Typically, when you first start counseling, you will probably go see your Therapist once a week. But once you, as the client, start to feel comfortable with your ability to handle things on your own, sessions take place less often and you usually go to every other week or less than that, as a follow-up.
Payment occurs at the end of each session if you are a private pay client. There are also possibilities for your insurance to pay for an "out of network" therapist. If that is the case, you go ahead and pay your therapist and then they can give you a bill to submit to your insurance for reimbursement. Some therapists take insurance and then they therefore submit the bill to the insurance themselves and you do not have to worry about it, depending on how much your insurance covers. Another case in which your therapy could be covered is if you have made charges against someone, due to being the victim of a crime, you are usually able to get Victim's Compensation. With this, you also do not have to pay, as Victim's Compensation pays your Therapist.
The session price is usually a flat rate that is agreed upon before the first session. There are other fees that may come into play within the counseling process, which are discussed in the first session. These may include: check bouncing fees, cancellation fees, etc. Usually, you are given a disclosure statement that you sign that states all of the fees that could potentially be charged. These are special instances though and are not usually on top of the session fee every week.
What if I start feeling worse before I feel better?
This is a very common feeling and sometimes it scares clients. Usually after the first and second session, clients feel really great. However, as time goes on and issues are examined a little further, it is very common for clients to start feeling like their situation gets worse. Often times, clients start to dig into deeper issues that can be contributing to their current issues. This can feel like other issues are coming up that aren't related or were never thought about before, but usually things don't come up for no reason. .
The environment of counseling is supposed to be relaxed and safe. It is the Therapist's job to help you feel comfortable and allow you to feel like you can talk about anything. In addition to what the room feels like, it is important that you feel connected with your therapist. If you do not feel comfortable with your Therapist, it is important that you find someone who you do connect with. There is a relationship that is created between you and your therapist. It is a professional relationship, but it is a deeper, more genuine relationship than the typical professional relationship. I am a huge advocate of my clients feeling comfortable and if they don't, I make sure to let them know that they have the right to go try out some other Therapist's and see if they have a connection. You as a client have rights and it is important that those are told to you.
Now that you have some information, does this help you feel more comfortable to look into Therapy? Could you benefit from Therapy?
If you have questions that I didn't answer in this blog, please do not hesitate to contact me. I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Brittany Wingfield, MS, LPCC