Most of us want to know something is going to work before we try it. We read reviews of products before we use the or listen to evaluations of places before we plan a visit. So how does that work with counseling? I mean, how do you know it is going to work? You can hear from one person that they LOVE their counselor or therapist and that same therapist has had clients that stopped coming to them because they didn't like it at all. I know people that have been in therapy for years. Does that mean it isn't working for them? Actually this is the exciting part. You get to decide. You get to decide who you see, how honest you are, what you talk about and how long you go. Think of it like you are designing your own tailor made product that works only for you!
When counseling works, you usually know it right away. If you don't, just take a little bit of time for self reflection and evaluate some of the following areas:
- Did the issue I brought to counseling initially get addressed? Has their been any improvement at all, even if it feels small?
- Have I seen changes in my relationships, career, or other areas of my life?
- Am I more aware of my feelings or insight about situations?
- Do I feel motivated to go to counseling? Am I looking forward to what else I will learn?
If you answered yes to these questions, I would say in general, counseling is working for you! That is great!
If you said no to the majority of these questions, then here are some other questions you can ask yourself to figure out why it may not be effective:
- Do you feel a connection with your therapist? If you don't, have you talked to them about it? Not every therapist is for everyone. I tell clients that if they don't feel a connection or that my style jives with theirs, I am happy to provide a referral. It doesn't mean I am a bad therapist or they are a bad client. In fact, to me, that kind of honesty is what makes therapy successful. If I can link a client to someone that does help them, then I have done my job!
- Do you feel understood or listened to in your sessions? Nothing is worse then speaking from your heart and having it completely disregarded. The process of therapy is one of developing knowing - knowing of ourselves and being known by the other (the therapist)
- Can you be totally honest in your sessions? That's right, leave your censorship at the door.
- Do you want change in your life and are you ready to take risks to make this happen? Risks might include setting boundaries with other people that might get upset about it or asserting your needs even when there is no guarantee that they will be met.
I believe counseling helps people. It has helped me personally and I wouldn't be in this profession if I didn't think it helped others. A good therapist wants to see you have positive change in your life. If you need help figuring out if counseling is right for you, consult with a therapist. I, and many other therapists, offer free consults to help you make the right decision for yourself.