How to get the most out of counseling?
1. Be prepared before every session, by knowing what you want to talk about, what caused you to seek counseling, what has happened recently that is significant. It is best to write things down so you do not forget them during the session. Be prepared to share your life history, openly and honestly, which means providing more than a "Yes" or a "no" answer. Be prepared to expand on your answers with background information, details of events, the people involved, while not withholding anything. The more information you provide, the faster a professional will understand you and how to help you.
2) Responses such as "I don't know" and "I'll try", are not answers in counseling. Professional counselors will not accept them, nor allow you to use or rely on them. You either stand up or you don't. You will either do it or you won't. Telling a professional counselor that "I'll try" means you are not going to do it. Just as saying "I don't know" tells the professional that you don't want to answer the question. Counseling is like almost anything else worth doing, you get out of it what you put in to it. Not being prepared for each session, not having a list of concerns or happenings since your last session, demonstrates your lack of investment, commitment, or both in your counseling. Then ask yourself, "Why should a professional Counselor/Therapist be any more invested in your healing than you are?"
If you don't know why you are there each week, how are they supposed to? Many clients however expect the professional to ask dozens of questions, constantly probing, to find something to talk about during the session. Many clients become discouraged and quit after only one or more of these sessions, blaming either "counseling" or the professional they saw. Never realizing that they were neither prepared nor an active participant in their own healing. Remember, no one can read your mind and no one can heal you. It is up to you to "think out loud" and be active in your own healing during sessions.
If you feel there is a miscommunication; did you express your expectations out loud? In writing, by note or email? Did you state that you do not understand something and ask clarifying questions? Are your expectations unreasonable for counseling, what if you cannot have what you want? Did you just quit? Many people unknowingly expect the rest of us to read their minds. Has anyone ever told you that or something similar?
3. How do you prepare to see your primary care physician? You tell him ALL of your symptoms, medication you are currently on, history of illnesses, and everything else that's relevant.
Why? Because you don't want to be sick anymore! It's the same with counseling, where no topic is off limits. You are asking a professional to help you get better, so you need to tell them everything, truthfully. Do not leave something out, excusing it as "I didn't think it was relevant to what we were seeking counseling for." You don't know what's relevant and what's not. That is why you are seeing a professional. Everything is relevant to a trained professional in your Biopsychosocial-behavioral History! So professional counseling is intrusive. It can be messy, sad, painful, disturbing and disruptive to your everyday life. But that part will not last. It will make you uncomfortable at first. But as you get used to the process and your counselor, it gets easier. Much easier. Once all the difficult issues, history and events are out in the open, it gets easier. After all of the difficult history and issues have been aired, the process can move on to healing and rebuilding a spiritually fulfilling life absent the guilt and shame you have carried all of your life.
4. There is an old saying I learned in graduate school about therapists and their clients, that says;
Successful therapists work through the immaturities of their clients, while
successful clients work through the immaturities of their therapists.
Why is this important? Because therapist's work with imperfect clients every day and clients will never find a perfect therapist/counselor. Just like we will never find another person who agrees with all of our thoughts, values, emotions, choices and images. Because of this reality, healthy people learn to disagree, agreeably. That doesn't mean you shouldn't seek a professional that holds some of your values, beliefs, or goals for the counseling process. You should, while realizing that their will never be a perfect fit in a fallen world.