- Granite Bay
- Citrus Heights
Seeking Professional Help
Who do you talk to when you are struggling in your relationship?
Where do you go to vent when you are overwhelmed with the stressors and responsibilities that life continues to pile on your already full plate? How often do you find a willing ear that is ready to receive the myriad of things serious and minor that are causing you to be unhappy?
You might be one of the lucky folks who has a good friend or family member that is willing to be the sounding board for those problems. And as much as it helps to talk about these things to someone close to you, the benefit of such a solution is limited.
Think of it this way: if you are having problems with your car and need some assistance in coming up with a solution to fix it, who is the most likely person able to help you with your problem? A friend or family member, or a trained and experienced mechanic who can assess and fix your car problems?
Easy answer, right? Your close friend and family member might be able to empathize with you and validate your feelings because they too own a car and understand how frustrating it can be to have car problems, but that would be the extent of their ability to help.
So how come we don’t seek counseling services from qualified professionals when we are having marriage issues?
The answer is complicated and lengthy, but the short version is simply a matter of misconceptions, some of which are based on real experiences and others of which are unfounded.
Let’s start with the one I encounter the most: “Counseling is for crazy people who are not able to handle their business.” I am sure that we all have read some version of that statement, which can be the furthest thing from truth.
Want me to prove it? Okay, when was the last time that you or anyone you know had a formal training, class, or workshop related to any of the following topics: coping with stress, successful relationships, healthy boundaries, etc.?
I am sorry, but was your answer never? That’s what I thought. So if we are in agreement that society does not provide us with a structured way to learn those skills while growing up, then why the hell do we expect that we all should be born hard-wired with that knowledge?
The truth of the matter is that we all struggle our way through life and marriage trying to figure out how to cope with what is thrown our way.
Some of us get lucky because we were exposed to positive models of how to cope from family, church, etc., but most of us are not so lucky and get our information about how the world works and how to cope with it from negative sources such as unhealthy families, T.V. shows, etc.
Here’s the second most common misconception: “Counseling is just a gimmick and doesn’t work.” Well there is no way to sugar coat this puppy. One of two things goes on with the folks who feel that way. One: they did everything they could on their end, but they happened to stumble on a bad egg who was unable to help them with their issues. Two: they were unhappy because the process of counseling as well as the end result did not meet the unrealistic experience, process, or results they envisioned. This is why it’s very important to really understand how the counseling process works, what results it can yield, and the qualities to look for when selecting a counselor.
Still with me? Good.
So how do you pick the right professional to help you with your counseling needs?
- Identify the type of counseling services best suited for your needs such as individual counseling, marriage counseling, or family counseling. Each is suited for different situations and not every counselor is capable, experienced, and trained to do all of these services.
- Before you book your first session, have a consultation with the counselor you plan to work with. Any counselor worth his/her salt would encourage you to do so. The consultation is usually free and its designed to help you and the counselor determine whether or not the two of you are a good fit for each other (i.e., do they have the experience, training, and license necessary to provide you with the services you need? Is their counseling style and personality compatible with yours?).
- Think about the specific goals you want to achieve from counseling and share those goals with your counselor in the first session. This will help the two of you develop a clear, realistic plan of action that you can both use to track progress.
- Don’t shy away from asking questions about where you are and where you are heading in the counseling process. I tell all my clients that we are both accountable for the progress made and the setbacks. Counseling is a partnership in which both the client and the counselors have responsibilities and duties toward the process.
- Be patient with yourself. Learn new tools and practice, practice, practice. Negative ways of thinking and behaviors take years to develop and will not disappear overnight. The flip side of this is that counseling should not be forever. it’s a process that should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Once you achieve your goals and life is back in balance, stay on top of your mental well-being. It’s kind of like seeing the dentist; you shouldn’t just do it when you have a cavity or need a root canal. Prevention is the best cure.