Why Counseling?

Unfortunately sometimes in our society there is a stigma around seeking help for emotional needs. The irony to this is that we are a society that is geared towards seeking medical assistance whenever there is a physical problem and we usually have access to many specialists. A therapist is a specialist who deals with difficult emotional issues and life stresses and there should be no shame involved in seeking help. A therapist’s expertise can provide support to the individual in distress, strategies in how to manage the stress, and insight into what may or may not help based on the person’s history, strengths and weaknesses, and goals.

There are many benefits to counseling when you are going through a difficult or stressful life situation. There are different types of counseling that are helpful. Individual therapy is one-to-one counseling that can be meaningful in that it provides confidential communication and a safe environment for the individual to express him/herself. Building a relationship with the therapist can be an important part of healing and growth. Couple counseling can be a meaningful way to work together with your partner on a life crisis that you are both experiencing. It can also be an avenue to work on problematic issues between two partners.

Group counseling can be beneficial for several reasons. A support group is a place where you can safely share your life crisis with others who are experiencing something very similar. No two problems or issues are identical but to speak openly with others, in a support group setting that is professionally led, can be a very enriching experience. There is much to be said for getting support and validation from others who are going through something similar – and this can be powerful, inspirational and healing. Support groups can be closed or open. Closed groups mean that once they start, others are not invited to participate. A closed group lasts about 6-8 weeks. An open group may not have a fixed schedule of time and new participants may continue to join. Another type of therapy group is designed to enable the participants to work on themselves vis-a-vis their relationships with others. These psychotherapy groups have a different purpose than a support group and are often in addition to individual therapy. These groups are also closed, but are usually open-ended and can exist for many months or even years.

It is natural to want to know the background of the counselor and you are permitted to ask what their training is and what their familiarity with your life situation is. Not all counselors freely answer the second question and this may be dependent on what you are seeking out of counseling. For instance, if you are seeking supportive therapy for a life crisis, then the therapist should not hide what his/her experience has been. On the other hand, individuals who are seeking psychotherapy may be better off not knowing too much about their therapist’s personal history as this can get in the way of the work. In general it is advised to find a counselor whom you feel comfortable with and who is familiar with the situation you are dealing with. There are many well-trained and competent counselors.

Is Counseling for you?

Counseling is not for everyone and no one can tell you that you must go to counseling. There are times in life when it may be recommended to you in order to get through a particularly difficult time, or if there is a pattern of behavior that you would like to change. Sad or depressed feelings may warrant working with a therapist in order to understand their origins and what can be done in order for you to enjoy life more. Sometimes not dealing with or facing your feelings can lead to destructive behavior either in relationships with others, or towards yourself in the form of alcohol consumption or drug use.

Most people benefit from counseling. Being in an environment that allows you to focus just on you holds many benefits – not always realized at the outset. It takes strength to take advantage of what a counselor can offer – but don’t forget you would naturally seek medical help and attention for physical needs. Taking care of your emotional needs is also natural and normal.