Therapy is intended to help people with making changes. These changes may involve thinking differently, feeling differently, and/or acting differently. Therapy is intended to be a process in which one moves along in their development, that enhances their relationships with others, and that helps them adjust and face challenges.
The nature, approach, and concerns encountered in individual therapy vary greatly depending on the stage of life of the client and the particular difficulty being experienced. For adults, individual therapy may be designed to address a particular difficulty one may be experiencing or in some cases, may be designed to assist those wishing to develop a better understanding of past issues and their relation to current behavior and feelings. With adolescents, and older, more verbal children, individual therapy may also be employed to address problems with depression and anxiety. In addition, issues related to self-esteem, school performance and behavior, family and peer interactions are concerns commonly encountered in individual treatment with older children and adolescents
Who can benefit from counseling?
Just about anyone can benefit. No problem is too big or small. Listed below are just a few examples of some common concerns:
- Symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression
- Interpersonal difficulties, family problems, romantic relationship concerns, problems with assertiveness, and other issues
- Bereavement and grief related to the loss of a loved one (such as relationship breakups, deaths, parental divorce, or other major losses)
- Questions/confusion about identity, self-image, sexuality, gender, or religious concerns
- Experience with sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, abuse, or other trauma
- Thoughts of suicide, death, or hurting others
- Behaviors that can be harmful to you, like drug or alcohol abuse or cutting
*Adult ADHD (ADD), adult survivors of childhood abuse, anger management, Bipolar Disorder, divorce recovery, marital conflict, midlife transitions, Mood Disorders, Panic Disorder, parent-child/adolescent conflict, parenting concerns, phobias, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Pre-marital counseling, relationship issues, remarried/blended family adjustment, self-esteem, stress, and substance abuse.
When to Seek Counseling
While counseling might be helpful in numerous situations, there are some conditions in which we would strongly encourage you to seek counseling services:
- You are unhappy on most days or feel a sense of hopelessness
- You worry excessively or are constantly on edge
- You are unable to concentrate on your work or other activities
- You are unable to sleep at night or constantly feel tired
- You have experienced a change in your appetite or your weight
- You have experienced a loss (e.g., a relationship breakup, a parent’s death)
- You have increased your use of alcohol or other drugs (including cigarettes)
- You feel overwhelmed by what is going on in your life
- You are having thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else
What Happens in Therapy?
The first session will usually involve you and your counselor “getting to know” one another. Your counselor will ask questions about you and your past experiences, current situation, family, job and friends. The counselor will not push you to delve into private matters, but does need to obtain enough information about your individual needs in order to determine a course of treatment. In some cases, the problem will be quite evident to both you and your therapist. However, in some cases there may be an underlying issue you are not aware of (e.g. you may be depressed, anxious or angry without knowing why).
It is important for your counselor to assess the problem and decide the best plan of action. The first step is to determine what the problem is. Once you and your counselor have both developed an awareness of the situation, you can start to work together to determine why the problem is present. From here, a program will be implemented to try to solve the problem.
Remember that, although your counselor may be directing the sessions, you are the one in control. If you feel that the therapy should take a different direction, discuss this with your therapist. He or she has selected a program to best suit your needs, but will still be very responsive to any feedback that you have. However, keep in mind that therapist are highly trained professionals that have a lot of experience in their field. By trusting that your counselor has your best intentions in mind, you will benefit more from the therapy.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Counseling Experience
Define your goals. Think about what you would like to get out of counseling. It might be helpful to write a list of events, relationship issues, or feelings that you think are contributing to your distress. Take time before each session to consider your expectations for that session. Self-exploration and change involve hard work, and sometimes painful feelings are stirred up in the process of healing. Counselors are trained to pay close attention to these issues and will probably encourage you to discuss these feelings openly.
Be an active participant. This is your counseling experience, so be as active as you can in deciding how to use the time. Be honest with the counselor and give feedback about how you see the sessions progressing.
Be patient with yourself. Growth takes time, effort, and patience. All of your coping skills, behavior patterns, and self-perceptions have been learned and reinforced over a long period of time, so change can be difficult and slow at times.
Ask questions. Ask questions about the counseling process, any methods used by the counselor, or about any other services. Your counselor is there to assist you.
Follow your counselor’s recommendations.
Take the time between sessions to complete any activities suggested by your counselor. Counseling is intended to improve your life in the “real world,” so making efforts to try out and practice new behaviors, approaches, or ways of thinking could be a crucial element to the success of your counseling experience.