Whether seeing a counselor is your own idea or something you are required to do, you may be feeling a little unsure and uncomfortable with the whole idea. Here are some tips to make the experience more positive and something that you will benefit from:
- Counselors are there to help you. It might seem kind of odd that a total stranger could care about you and want to help you no matter what, but, that's exactly what counselors are all about. Counselors go into that field because they want to help people to make their life 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. Talking to another person about your deepest thoughts and feelings can be a pretty nerve-wracking experience. What will they 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 are keeping you from feeling better (for example, self-harm), but that doesn't mean that they are judging you as being a bad or weak person.
- 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 help yourself. Your progress towards feeling better is going depend on how well you implement advice and work on the things that have been suggested.
- Be open and honest. Often therapy involves talking about tough situations or feelings. It might be difficult at first, but this is how your counselor will understand your situation so they can help things get better. Be open to doing this.
- Be specific. If you don't tell your counselor the whole story about what is going on, they won't be able to provide the best type of help. Think about it. If tell your medical doctor that you are having headaches but fail to mention that you fell and hit your head recently, he might just tell you to take some pain relievers and not investigate further. The same is true when it comes to therapy. If you tell your counselor that you are feeling down but don't explain why, they can't really help. In the same way, not mentioning if you have had thoughts about ending your life won't allow the counselor to offer the type of help that you need.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. Counselors are happy to answer your questions about the therapy process, so don't be afraid to ask. If you are concerned that your counselor is going to tell your parents everything you share with them, ask them about it. If you don't understand something your counselor wants you to do, ask them to explain. They are there to work with you, so they need to know what questions you have. Open communication will break down barriers that will allow you both get down to the business of helping you succeed.
After Your Appointment
- Take time to unwind. Talking about yourself can be stressful. Schedule time for self-care time following your therapy appointment. Go for a walk, talk to your parents about your session, punch a pillow, cry, yell, do an activity with a friend to decompress.
- Consider keeping a journal or log of your week. This will help your counselor to understand how events and situations are affecting your mental health.
- Write down your questions. If you think of a question for your counselor during the week, write it down so you can remember to ask it at your next appointment.
- Do your homework. If your counselor asks you to do journaling or coping exercises, do your best to follow through on this. They are trying to help you to work through your situation, find solutions, and move forward.