When is it time to see a counselor?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 26.2% of Americans over the age 18, or about 1 out of every 4 adults has a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. With that being said, seeking out a counselor to help a address a mental disorder is becoming more common. So, when should someone seek out a counselor? Here are some signs that may indicate it is time: when a person's thinking, emotional state, and behavior disrupts the person's ability to work or attend school; the ability to carry out other daily activities is disrupted; and/or when symptoms are interfering with personal relationships.
There are various options available to you when you decide to seek out a counselor. Some places of employment offer Employment Assistance Programs (EAP) to help get started. This usually offers 3-8 sessions at no cost to you and this is separate from your insurance. You can also utilize your insurance for counseling services. Make sure you check your benefit coverage. You can also choose to self-pay if you do not want to utilize the other options.
Do your research when you are ready to start looking for a counselor. Ask others for recommendations, get referrals from your insurance, or check on the internet. You can usually find information regarding experience and education on the internet. Once you make an appointment, you should expect to have some paperwork to fill out during the first session. The first session is for the counselor to gather background information and to help you identify goals for counseling. The important thing is to make sure you feel comfortable with your counselor because that will have the biggest impact on the outcomes of your counseling experience
How do you prepare for your first session and the experience of counseling?
Counseling is a beneficial experience for many people. However, we do know counseling can be stressful and an emotional process as you work through the issues that bring you into treatment. Here are some suggestions to help make your counseling experience smoother and successful!
Paperwork: Before initial session, have paperwork filled out and bring with you so we can get started right away with what is bringing you into treatment. If you have questions about paperwork, just leave blank and we can discuss during initial session.
Get to know your counselor: Take a few minutes to learn about your counselor. We encourage all our clients to review their counselors biographies prior to first session to familiarize yourself with their education, licensures, and experience. You will typically talk directly to your counselor during your initial call, so please feel free to ask us any questions you may have. We want you to be well informed and comfortable because these are vital to your success.
Motivation: Counseling is most effective if you believe you need it. If you do not believe you have anything to fix and are only doing it because someone else is telling you to do it, then you will not be invested in fixing anything!
Attitude: We understand that it can be scary to talk to a stranger about personal issues. Have an open mind and know that we care and are here for you. We want to help you overcome and work through what brought you into treatment.
Attendance: During your first session, you and your counselor will determine how often you need to come in for treatment. It is important to show up to appts to make progress toward your goals. We can’t address issues or barriers to your progress if you are not there.
Homework: Yes, it’s true, you will have homework to work on in between sessions. Typical sessions last 45-50 minutes. Issues will not be resolved during that time, but rather, you will learn the skills and increase understanding to the issues your you are facing. It will be up to you to implement these new skills and how often you do, will determine your success in this process. Don’t worry, no final exams or grades for homework!
How can counseling help me?
A number of benefits are available from participating in counseling. Counselors can provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping strategies for issues such as depression, anxiety, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, grief, stress management, body image issues and creative blocks. Many people also find that counselors can be a tremendous asset to managing personal growth, interpersonal relationships, family concerns, marriage issues, and the hassles of daily life. Counselors can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from counseling depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn. Some of the benefits available from counseling include:
- Attaining a better understanding of yourself, your goals and values
- Developing skills for improving your relationships
- Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek counseling
- Learning new ways to cope with stress and anxiety
- Managing anger, grief, depression, and other emotional pressures
- Improving communications and listening skills
- Changing old behavior patterns and developing new ones
- Discovering new ways to solve problems in your family or marriage
- Improving your self-esteem and boosting self-confidence
Do I really need counseling? I can usually handle my problems.
Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced, there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, counseling is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you're at in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy. Counseling provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face.
What about medication vs. psychotherapy?
It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Instead of just treating the symptom, counseling addresses the cause of our distress and the behavior patterns that curb our progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness. Working with your medical doctor you can determine what's best for you, and in some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action.
Do you take insurance, and how does that work?
To determine if you have mental health coverage through your insurance carrier, the first thing you should do is call them. Check your coverage carefully and make sure you understand their answers. Some helpful questions you can ask them:
- What are my mental health benefits?
- What is the coverage amount per counseling session?
- How many counseling sessions does my plan cover?
- How much does my insurance pay for an out-of-network provider?
- Is approval required from my primary care physician?
Does what we talk about in therapy remain confidential?
Confidentiality is one of the most important components between a client and counselor. Successful therapy requires a high degree of trust with highly sensitive subject matter that is usually not discussed anywhere but the counselor's office. Every counselor should provide a written copy of their confidential disclosure agreement, and you can expect that what you discuss in session will not be shared with anyone. This is called “Informed Consent”. Sometimes, however, you may want your therapist to share information or give an update to someone on your healthcare team (your Physician, Naturopath, Attorney), but by law your therapist cannot release this information without obtaining your written permission.
However, state law and professional ethics require counselors to maintain confidentiality except for the following situations:
* Suspected past or present abuse or neglect of children, adults, and elders to the authorities, including Child Protection and law enforcement, based on information provided by the client or collateral sources.
* If the counselor has reason to suspect the client is seriously in danger of harming him/herself or has threatened to harm another person.