You have decided to seek help from a mental health professional. Congratulate yourself and be proud of the courage in taking this step! The motivation from this decision alone will help you move forward and get you “unstuck” and on the right life track.
Everyone comes to counseling for unique personal reasons. You may find that you are repeating the same self-destructive pattern over and over and struggle with stopping it on your own. Maybe you are finding that you are unhappy in your job or a significant relationship. Some seek help when they go through a life transition that feels overwhelming. Others may just need an objective sounding board to help sort out feelings about a decision or life event. Whatever the reason, a trained counselor can help you identify the roadblocks you face and the reasons for your choices so you can make the positive changes that you desire.
The first step is finding the right counselor for your needs. This is critical. A comfortable, respectful and relaxed working relationship will help you to feel safe in sharing personal information that will help you progress. Do not be afraid to shop around. The more comfortable and confident you are with your counselor and their ability, the greater your chance for success! Many therapists offer free initial consultations.
To prepare for your first session, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you are in charge. You are the expert of your life. The counselor’s job is to listen carefully and help guide you in the direction you want to go. Think about the reason why you are seeking help and the goals you have for the process. Do you want to specifically focus on one particular problem or are your needs or goals more broad? It is also helpful to have a timeline for how long you would like to be in counseling.
Spilling every detail or difficult situation you’ve ever dealt with in the first session is not necessary, however be prepared to be as honest and open as possible. Therapy sessions offer a unique opportunity to be “safely vulnerable” and allow for the process of counseling to heal you and give you perspective.The information you share provides pieces for the counselor that collectively form a picture of your life experiences. The effects of these experiences are what shaped your decisions. It is often difficult to recognize how these pieces fit together until they are pointed out by an objective, trained listenter. Over time, the insight can allow for greater self-awareness and compassion. The new perspective motivates change and a happier, healthier view of yourself and your life situations and consequences.
You and your counselor will have a relationship like no other you have ever experienced. Your time in session is about you and only you. It is quite different from talking to a friend. Your counselor will help you recognize how your thoughts and behaviors are based on effects from past or current experiences. Drawing on this knowledge in your present life can help lead you in the direction you wish to take. The therapy process can be difficult and can tap into unwanted emotions and memories, but it is also what allows for healing and growth. A good therapist can guide you to change your life in many positive ways. Some say that counseling is expensive, but unhappiness or bad habits can be even more costly. The many positive, life changing benefits you reap in the therapy process are truly priceless and long lasting.