Looking for a counselor can be intimidating for anyone especially for someone who has not done it before. High Fives!!! You at least are aware enough to seek help. You are not alone. Check out some facts on mental illness.

For most, it is normal to connect mental health counseling with this proverbial couch, with the client sitting on the sofa and letting out their dark secrets while a counselor takes down short notes on a paper. Although the traditional form of therapy still exists; but counseling these days can be very different. You could be working on a craft, reading journal entries, playing a game, mapping out goals, strategizing collaboratively with the counselor like a consultant would, draw or color emotions, sit quietly for a period of time, meditate together, practice mindfulness, or discuss philosophy of life if that is important to you. Plus counseling is getting more and more accessible with telemedicine or telehealth acts. Some states have passed legislation related to telehealth. For example, mental health counseling in New Jersey is now reimbursed through insurance depending on your plan coverage since the state passed the Telemedicine legislation last summer. So there should be no excuse for not seeking help when and if one feels the need of it.

How does counseling work?

Let’s first define counseling. According to American Counseling Association, Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals. You can seek counseling as an individual, couple, family, or a group. You can seek counseling for a number of different things: health related, mental disorder, stress, wellness, career, or anything else that might be stressing you.

Although each counselor or clinic could have different ways of doing things, usually you might have a phone or in person consultation before scheduling a diagnostic evaluation. At the diagnostic evaluation, the counselor will probably ask why you are there and a whole lot of questions related but not limited to your background, upbringing history, any abuses, psychiatric history, psychological and physical symptoms, any traumas, recent changes, and a whole lot more. The counselor might spend little time in defining the problem and maybe doing some counseling to provide some relief to the imminent symptoms. Otherwise, I would not expect much of counseling being done at this stage.

Here at my practice, my every session varies depending on the individual and the presenting problem(s). Usually it’s just enough time to get the diagnostic evaluation done, however, if there is little more time left I might go into treatment goals. For me this session is really to determine whether I am the best fit for the client with the presenting concerns and psychological disorder(s) the person might be struggling with. I also highly encourage the client to evaluate whether they feel comfortable in my office and with me before scheduling any further sessions. Picking out a counselor can be a daunting and scary. Here are my suggestions.

The real counseling begins after the first diagnostic session. Most of the counselors focus on relationship building and providing interventions to find you some relief from your immediate symptoms or concerns. Going more into the history and finding malfunctioning patterns and beliefs come little later after you are stabilized from your presenting symptoms. The last stage is maintenance stage, which is when you start to taper off from counseling while maintaining your mental and emotional stability.

Benefits of Counseling

Mental health counseling is provided for a wide range of issues and concerns that can lead to mental disorders. I would highly recommend seeking counseling as the first step for the things that usually keeps you up at night and before these things become mental disorders. Following are some of the benefits (of course not limited to) counseling can provide you:

  • Coping skills
  • Self-empowerment
  • Boosted esteem
  • Recognizing Triggers
  • Identifying irrational beliefs and thinking
  • Techniques for stress management
  • Better relationships with loved ones
  • Self-awareness
  • Well-being
  • On the journey to growth and development

In closing, I would say please do not hesitate to seek for help if you know you are suffering. I cannot talk about the benefits of counseling enough. I find a deep sense of gratitude and satisfaction when I see my clients overcoming their issues and leading a healthy and satisfying life however they define it.