So you have an appointment to see a counselor. Now what?
Whether seeing a counselor is your own idea or it's something being forced upon you by your parents or school, the whole process can be kind of scary and leave you wondering what to expect. Here are some tips to make the experience more positive for you and the outcome more beneficial.
- Counselors are there to help you. It might seem kind of strange that a total stranger could care about you and want to help you no matter what, but in most cases, that's exactly what counselors are all about. People don't go into the field of counseling because it's an easy job or they are hoping to make a lot of money. They go into that field because they want to help people, they want to make people's lives better. Your counselor is someone who wants to see you succeed and overcome whatever obstacles you are facing.
- Counselors aren't there to judge you. Opening up to another person about your deepest thoughts and feelings can be a pretty nerve-wracking experience. What will the other person think? Will they judge you or think you're weak or crazy or a terrible person? Fortunately, counselors aren't judges. Their job isn't to make decisions about what kind of person you are, or about your personal struggles. Their job is to help you feel better. Because of this, a counselor may encourage you to change certain behaviors that they think are a hindrance to you feeling better (for example, self-harm), but that doesn't mean that they are judging you as a bad or weak person. You don't have to worry what your counselor thinks of you!
- You have to do your part. While your counselor's role is to help, you also have a role to fulfill when you go to counseling. Your job is to accept the counselor's help and to put in the effort to then help yourself. Your progress towards feeling better is going depend on how well you implement advice and work on the things you've discussed between your counseling sessions.
- Honesty is essential. When you go to see a counselor, it's really important that you are honest about what's going on. If you don't tell your counselor the whole story, then they aren't going to be able to provide the most appropriate treatment. Think about it. If you go to see your medical doctor and tell him you are having headaches, but fail to mention that you fell and hit your head recently, he's probably going to just tell you to take some medication. But you might actually need to get a scan and have more intensive treatment. The same is true when it comes to counseling. If you tell your counselor that you are feeling down but fail to explain why or not mention that you have had thoughts about ending your life, then the counselor is going to respond in a way that might not be appropriate to the level of help that you need.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Counselors are happy to answer your questions about the counseling process, so don't be afraid to ask. If you are concerned about being honest because you are afraid that your counselor is going to tell your parents, ask the counselor about this. Find out what their confidentiality policy is. If you don't understand something your counselor is asking you to do, ask them to explain. Your counselor is there to work with you, but they need to know what questions you have first so they can get those barriers to effective counseling out of the way and get down to the business of helping you to thrive.