Updated: Sep 4, 2020
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So, you’ve decided to finally stop ignoring how incredibly depressed you’ve been over the past few months, and take action to conquer your demons. Recognizing that there is a problem and deciding to do something about it is one of the hardest steps in recovery, so there’s many reasons to be very proud of yourself. That being said, finding the right counselor that you trust and feel comfortable opening up to can be challenging and uncomfortable. Also, considering the fact that counseling can be an expensive commitment, it’s important for you to know that you’re receiving the most out of your experience. So how can we achieve what we need out of counseling? Here are four tips.
1. Before you do anything, figure out your goals. Before you even attend your first counseling session, you need to decide what exactly it is that you want to get out of the experience. Are your concerns due to a recent event, or have you been struggling with a mental health issue for quite some time? Do you find yourself falling back into old, negative behavior patterns for no apparent reason, even when things are good? Or are you struggling with something more serious, such as Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia? Writing down your goals for counseling, such as reversing negative behavior patterns or learning to cope with a Bipolar diagnosis can help both you and your counselor know what is important to you, and what needs to be resolved. Show your goals to your counselor so he or she can curate a plan pertaining to your specific needs.
2. Be honest with your counselor. Maybe there’s some things you’ve never been honest about in your life. This can be especially true for those who have been sexually abused or are struggling with domestic violence. Honesty, in the past, may have put us in vulnerable situations, especially if we lived in a home where it felt like one was always on eggshells. As difficult as it is, it is imperative that you be as honest with your counselor as much as possible. There is no point in putting on a certain persona for your counselor as you might for a casual acquaintance. Your counselor is an impartial third party who can only help you if you let him or her really know what’s going on. If honesty is difficult for you, make sure you let your counselor know from the beginning, so they can help you feel more comfortable.
3. Keep a journal. Your counselor might tell you to keep a journal as a homework assignment, but if they don’t, please make sure to do so. Writing down your feelings every day, especially pertaining to the issues you discuss in counseling, is not only healing, but informative. It can also be helpful to look back on old journal entries after a few months in counseling to see the progress that you’ve made. Sharing aspects of your journal with your counselor can help her or him understand exactly what you’re struggling with on a day-to-day basis. There is healing in writing.
4. Treat yourself kindly. Please be patient with yourself, especially if you are new to therapy. Healing doesn’t come overnight, and you may take three steps forward and four steps back some days. The point is that you are moving forward and addressing the problems in your life, no matter how frightened you may be feeling. Be patient with yourself and try not to criticize yourself if you temporarily fall back into old behavior patterns. Change is difficult, but with persistence and self-love, healing is possible.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your wellness journey and have decided that counseling is the way to go, you should be proud of yourself for recognizing the need to get help. After you’ve found the right therapist, the important part is to get the most out of your counseling sessions. With assistance from the right counselor, you can begin to feel more clarity and peace in your everyday life.