3 steps if you think you might want to get counseling

Not everyone is resistant to counseling.  Some people want to go but they are afraid, either because they have never been through it before, or because they had a bad experience last time they went.  Here I will give you three specific steps to take if you think you might want to get counseling.

1. Find the right counselor.  This may be the most difficult step.  The fit between you and your counselor will make a bigger difference in whether and how quickly you improve than anything else.  If you live in the greater Flint area and would like to pursue counseling, email me at dave at the fallen cleric dot com and I will send you my referral list (no self-interest here — I am not currently seeing clients because of my focus on teaching).  Otherwise ask your pastor, a trusted friend who has been to counseling before (and shares your basic world view), or look in the phone book.  Obviously that is not the best way to find a counselor, and in that case you may need to be prepared for it to take a little longer for you to find the right one.

2. Allow time for the relationship to develop.  Again, that relationship can and should be the healthiest part of the counseling experience for you.  In the absence of blatant comments by your counselor that he/she does not respect or understand your values, I suggest four to five sessions for rapport to develop.  If by your fifth session you are not feeling enthusiastic about your connection with your counselor, move on.  Remember, don’t look for someone  you always agree with.  You want someone to challenge you. But if there’s a huge divide between you — for example, if you seek counseling because you want to save your marriage, and the counselor encourages you to consider divorce — you need to find someone else.  Don’t just settle for someone you think might be smarter than you, and don’t be impressed with letters after a name.  Find someone you are really comfortable with, who you think you can trust, someone who helps you relax, and helps you think about your life in new ways.

3. As you begin to have confidence in your counselor, increasingly allow him/her to guide you.  If they suggest an activity for the week, do it.  If they bring up a new perspective, consider it.  Try to let your defenses down (not easy!) and let the process begin to work.  Remember, you are there because whatever you were thinking and doing was causing distress.  Allow someone else to encourage and challenge you to think and act differently.  Do not continually try to diagnose and treat yourself.  That was not working before you entered counseling, and it will not work now.  But don’t allow a counselor to label or pigeonhole you either.  If you start feeling like they have diagnosed you and now see you only in terms of whatever they think is wrong with you, find another counselor.  Effective counseling always keeps the individual in mind.

Next post: Signs of Counseling Quackery