Are you thinking about getting some help for emotional issues you are experiencing? Have you tried everything you can think of to solve the issues that you find yourself facing, without any luck? Are you ready to throw in the towel and give up, but realize that there are professionals out there that can help you sort out the issues that have been causing you such stress and sadness?
I have been a counsellor, in private practice, for the past 20 years. Here are some observations and tools I would like to give you to help you get the most out of your sessions with a professional therapist.
- Make sure you have a rapport with your counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist. Make sure that you feel comfortable, and that you feel safe and secure, and that your therapist is believable. You need to have absolute confidence in him/her. No therapist will be upset if you find that you haven’t or can’t have a rapport with them. They should understand better than anyone else that everyone can’t be a fit with everyone else. And that fit is what makes a successful counselling relationship or blows it.
- Make a firm commitment to the process. You will be investing not only your time, energy, but a good deal of money in this process. You would be foolish not to finish what you start. This is not to say that you can’t take a break if the work becomes overwhelming to you, however, that decision should be made in conjunction with your therapist. He/she should be aware of the stressors the counselling is causing you, and you should make sure he/she is aware.
- Trust your therapist like you would trust your lawyer. Understand that he/she is under the same rules of confidentiality as your lawyer, with the exceptions which they will make you aware of when you have your first session. If they don’t, then you need to question their professional conduct. If you can’t feel this kind of trust, then you need to question your choice of counsellor.
- Now you have a counsellor/therapist who you trust and feel absolutely comfortable with. Tell him/her your entire story, don’t hold back. It is counterproductive to lie to your counsellor/therapist or to hold back information which could help with your therapy. And you, as a lay person can’t possibly understand how many bits and pieces of information can affect the ability of the counsellor to help you, so don’t balk at the therapist/counsellor’s requests for information, they aren’t being nosy nor are they being voyeurs, they are simply trying to get all the pieces to the puzzle, in order to be able to find the clues to be able to help you overcome your issues. Be painfully honest. You will be surprised at how amazing it can feel to unload and share the bad stuff with just one other person, who will not judge you or condemn you. It can be a tremendously freeing process.
- Do all the homework assigned by your therapist. Not to do so, would be like paying someone to advise you on investments and then not taking the advice which you have paid for. It just doesn’t make any sense. There is a reason for your therapist to assign you the homework, it is to help move you along in the process and give you the tools you need to help you work through the issues. And with good tools in your emotional tool kit, it will make it much easier to deal with future issues, and help you not to experience the same pit falls again.
- Make a commitment to attend all of your sessions as agreed. First, your therapist makes his/her living through these sessions, and you are inconveniencing him/her, but secondly, and most importantly, you are short changing yourself. Take a good hard look at your reasons for cancelling your session. What was more important than your peace of mind? Do some real self-evaluation. Was it that you are getting too close to the issues and it’s getting tough and painful? Share this with your therapist. She/he is not a mind reader, even though sometimes it seems so. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you need to let him/her know that. If you are not pleased with the direction that the counselling is going. Let him/her know! It is really obvious when you are making great strides with your therapy; however, it isn’t always quite so obvious when you are feeling not so great about what is transpiring. You are still the customer, and as always the customer is right. Speak up, and let your therapist know what is and isn’t working for you. You will be helping them in your treatment, and he/she doesn’t want you to feel overwhelmed and if what he/she is doing isn’t working, then it is her/his responsibility to either change tactics/direction or refer you on to someone who can.
- Finally, if you are done, it is important to do a “closure session” to tie up any loose ends & to reflect on what has been accomplished and define anything still unresolved. Your counsellor may or may not agree that it is a therapeutically sound decision to end the sessions, however, it is ALWAYS up to the client to end, or take a break from therapy.
In conclusion, I wish you all the best. There are a lot of wonderful counsellors out there. We all work a slightly differently from one another, but the best therapists use what works best for their clients.
When I started my practice, I was often asked by pseudo-intellectuals, what was the kind of counselling I practiced. Was it Jungian, Rogerian, Freudian, Adlerian or what?
I would simply answer: “I practice what works.”