Common Questions

What Might You Expect When Seeing a Therapist

What therapists really do and who they are might be worth questioning before anyone of us shows up in a waiting room at our local counseling office to see someone they don’t even know.  Having questions about whom you might see is only a matter of common sense before spending the time and expense in exchange for what is meant to be a life changing.  When seeing a professional counselor or psychotherapist, the manner in which we engage is quite different than compared to seeing a physician may be less personal for the kind of interpersonal dialogue that transpires.  That is not to say that seeing any medical or allied health care professional is of any less importance or personal per se.

With psychotherapy, we talk about concerns that can be highly subjective when it comes to individual perspectives, values and shared emotions.  The therapist on the other hand needs to remain objective when helping people.  The person who sees a professional should ask a number of questions about who they are seeing that needs to include character and beliefs as much as one would find out more about the therapists level of education, training, any expertise and professional background.

Many view professional counselors based on public opinion that is often met with mixed reactions. If you’ve never worked with a therapist before, for any reason, let me assure you that reality is often very different than what you often see on television.  As a therapist, I personally wouldn’t waste my time with those shown through the eyes of Hollywood.  Before seeing a therapist you’ll want to know about their professional as well as personal reputation or credentials.  The best way to find out about a therapists’ character is through word of mouth and what others have experienced directly. The public is by talking to friends, family members or neighbors.  We can also contact the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against any individual or agency. Another way to learn about the reputation of any licensed therapist or counselor is to contact your insurance company or the professional association that many therapists belong to.

After deciding who you might want to see you’ll want to set up an initial appointment to find out if you and your therapist are a good fit. This initial period is also a time to ask questions even before seeing them in person before taking the next step in scheduling your appointment.  These questions can be asking about areas of specialization, experience in treating specific problems or disorders or years of professional expertise. Finding the right person is important because of the highly personal nature for what this special relationship demands.  After finding your own comfort zone with a professional counselor, the next step in meeting with your therapist is to begin assessing your situation in order to develop an individualized plan designed to meet your specific goals and objectives in therapy.  This is typically done through interviewing techniques and, or various forms of testing. Counseling is designed to help individuals, couples, spouses and family members.

What may justify seeing a professional counselor is often because of a crisis or persistent problem when their own efforts appear unsuccessful.  The concerns that many people bring into therapy vary and are uniquely presented according to individual perspectives. Common issues include feeling hopeless, overwhelmed, persistent anger or confusion with concerns that make no sense or people who want to better understand the cause. Others face the frustrations of adjusting to life changes, troubles at work or the experience of losing a loved one.  The majority of us, in the course of our lifetime, at least once, find ourselves in need of what warrants professional help.

Before the first session many feel some anxiety as would be expected and considered normal.  Just showing up to the first appointment is often the most difficult, although counseling can be uncomfortable at times when facing emotional subjects.  As much as what can be uncomfortable is often a good sign of what will produce positive results. Therapists are trained to be nonjudgmental and accepting.

Most people meet with their therapist once a week or at least in the beginning phase.  During the therapeutic process a comprehensive approach in getting the best results may also include working with others such as physicians, nutritionists, chiropractors or other allied health care providers.  The need for collaboration increases the likelihood of success and improved mental health.

Psychotherapy as translated in the Greek language as many of our English words originate means the healing of the mind or soul. Counseling is a process that can help people overcome what is considered common human problems including others that can be rather complex in which fewer people experience.  Examples of many common problems that people come in with involves depression and anxiety, relational conflicts, substance abuse or other addictive behaviors including disorders of infancy, childhood and adolescence.  Some examples of more complex problems are Bi-polar Disorder or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Traditional psychotherapy is fundamentally designed to help people gain insight into their emotional or psychological problems.  One purpose of counseling is meant to reduce symptoms whereas for others their motive is to understand themselves more deeply.  Of course there are many different approaches to counseling with various methods and personality types that are intended to accomplish the same results. There are other more significant differences when looking at philosophical and differences between therapist and client when it comes to their worldview or individual values.  These differences can sometimes be in conflict or be an asset, when for example with Christian clients or people of faith who may prefer to see a therapist having the same or similar values. Yet others are more interested to understand the cause to their problems that leads to genuine healing.  Counseling can also help to achieve a greater sense of self-control, satisfaction with personal fulfillment in life or resolving interpersonal conflicts.

Unfortunately there remains a stigma in western culture about accepting help from a mental health counselor.  Many people still believe that one must be seriously ill or “crazy.”  This myth needs to be expelled so that those that truly need help can receive it without obstruction, embarrassment or judged.  People not having been in therapy before may associate the experience with something vague in nature or even mysterious.  Counseling however relies on using the best of scientific methods combined with common sense and years of practical and clinical experience on the part of your counselor.  With this in mind real progress can be made.  Counseling needs to be structured, strategic, and dynamic. It’s about getting results!

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