13 Ways to Make the Most Out of Counseling

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I have dealt with anxiety and depression since I was a teenager. One of the best tools I have used for coping over the years has been counseling. If you think you could benefit from counseling (and I believe everyone can!), read on for my tips for getting the most out it!

13 Ways to Make the Most Out of Counseling

ways to make the most out of counseling

1 Find a Good Fit

Finding a counselor that you click with is the best piece of advice I can give you! You want to find a counselor you feel you can trust and open up to completely. Counseling can make you feel very vulnerable at times and you will get the most out of it if you feel connected to your counselor. Do some research ahead of time and find out what specialties your potential counselor has – are they in line with the kind of help you need?

2 Understand What You Are Getting

Counseling is a pretty generic term, and I use it interchangeably with the word therapy. There are many different types of therapy. The counseling center you attend or individual therapist you see should be able to provide you with information (in advance) about what kind of counseling they offer. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to to understand if that type of counseling will be best for you.

3 Commit To It

Make counseling a priority in your life. Know that you will require more than one session, and commit to following through. Keep your appointments, and reschedule immediately if something comes up. Know that the time you spend in counseling sessions is time well spent and treat it as if it is valuable.

4 Set Some Goals

What do you hope to get out of counseling? Think about this before your first session, but also check in with yourself regularly throughout your time in counseling. Share your goals with your counselor. Your goals might change as you learn more about yourself, and that’s okay!

5 Don’t Expect a Quick Fix

Don’t give up on counseling after one session! Counseling is an ongoing process, not an instant solution. Go into it knowing it takes time, and usually multiple appointments to see the growth in your problem area.

6 Choose a Good Time

When you make your counseling appointments, seriously consider the time of day. Counseling might affect you emotionally, so you may not want to have a session immediately before an important meeting at work for example. If you are drained by the end of the day and can’t focus late in the afternoon – morning appointments may be best for you. You want to be able to focus on counseling while you are there (be present and not worried about what is coming next), and if possible, to be able to process afterward. My sweet spot personally is an afternoon appointment close to my youngest’s nap time. If I’m lucky, this means the house is quiet when I get home and I have a few extra moments to reflect and re-group.

7 Get Ready to Talk

The biggest surprise about counseling for a lot of people (me included!) is how much you are expected to talk! Most counselors (in my experience) will guide you along and ask thoughtful questions. You need to talk about your feelings, experiences, history, hopes and fears in order to make progress in counseling. If this is difficult for you, don’t give up, it does get easier in time.

8 Do the Work

Counseling doesn’t stop after your session ends – in fact, that’s where the work really begins! You need to do the work outside of the counseling appointment. Find time to reflect on what was discussed during your sessions. Journaling is a great way to do this, but so is sitting quietly with your thoughts, taking a walk alone, or confiding in a trusted friend. You might also find it beneficial to read books on related topics to the issues you’re tackling in counseling, to try meditating, or to do other activities suggested by your counselor.

9 Cover the Costs

Finances can be a big deterrent to seeking counseling. The benefits can so greatly outweigh the costs so I encourage you to find a way to make it work. Your budget can be adjusted to make room for counseling costs (what expenses could you temporarily cut back on?). Many counselors offer a sliding scale for payments, or other payment plans. Your local church may offer free counseling. Your employer might offer a limited number of counseling sessions for free through an employee assistance program (talk to your human resources department). Friends and family may be willing to help you with the costs. Value your own well-being and explore your options.

10 Be Open Minded

Counseling is full of surprises. Let go of your expectations and be open minded. Be open minded when it comes to your counselor and their methods. But also be open minded about yourself, and what might come up during sessions. Don’t judge yourself, and don’t expect a particular outcome for your counseling sessions.

11 Take Good Care of Yourself

Therapy, or counseling, is a great form of self care. It can work wonders for your mental and emotional health. However, you need to take care of the rest of you as well, in order to reap the full benefits of counseling. Prioritize good sleep, healthy food, and exercise.

12 Take Notes

A lot can come up during a counseling session, and there may be important things you don’t want to forget! I find that if I don’t write something down very soon after a session, I’m likely to get distracted by life and forget it! You might even want to take a few notes during your counseling session, if that helps you to process things better.

13 Rinse and Repeat

Counseling doesn’t have to be a one time thing. Don’t be afraid, or ashamed, to use counseling again at different times in your life. We all need support, and that doesn’t change because of our age or stage in life. You may also seek counseling due to a major life change like divorce, loss of a family member, or other trauma. Counseling is a great resource and you should take advantage of it whenever it will benefit you.

Have you gone to counseling? Any tips you’d like to share?

ways to make the most out of counseling

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34 Comments

  1. This is super helpful. I did some counselling after my parents divorce and later on as a teenager, and I agree it’s important to be open and understand what you are getting!
    Tori @ The Mama Nurse recently posted…A Nurse’s Guide to Knowing When to Take Your Baby to the ERMy Profile

  2. Great tips! Good ones to keep in mind.

  3. These are great tips. It’s so important to be open minded during treatment. If you aren’t open to change then it likely won’t help.
    Nicole | The Professional Mom Project recently posted…Easy Vegan Gluten Free Peach CrumbleMy Profile

  4. I don’t think i have ever been to counseling of any kind. I am not sure I could do it for I am not one to talk about myself much.
    Rebecca Bryant recently posted…Join Me For The Books ‘n’ Bloggers Swap Pt2My Profile

  5. Such great tips here. Counseling is a helpful option if you’re not totally closed off. I can imagine it is difficult to get started talking about everything so openly, but one you get used to the concept and the walls come down, I bet it is such a relieving experience.
    Julie @ Fab Working Mom Life recently posted…Making Money From Home Made SimpleMy Profile

  6. Love this. I’ve been in counseling on and off since high school for anxiety and bipolar disorder, and it has been immensely helpful. I totally agree with these tips! Thanks for sharing.

    • It really helps with my anxiety too Amber! Thanks for understanding and for sharing a small part of your story 🙂 It’s something we should all talk about more so people know they are not alone!

  7. What great tips! I think the biggest is that sometimes these things take time and there is nothing wrong with that!
    Mama to 6 Blessings recently posted…My Extra Set Of Eyes With VTech Safe & Sound Digital Audio Monitor #GrowWithVTechMy Profile

  8. These are great tips for people seeking counseling. I hope this helps people make the most of their counseling
    Ashley @irishred02 recently posted…Kona Grill Restaurant ReviewMy Profile

  9. My husband started counseling a few months back for the fourth time. Commitment and working on things is really key. Finally he is back to the man I remember

    • Laura, I’m so glad to hear your husband is feeling and doing better. It’s really hard when you are going through a tough time personally and then on top of that feel like you might be letting your spouse or family down too. I’m sure it’s also really hard to be on your side of things. Big hugs to you both! <3

  10. I haven’t been to counseling myself, but I know it has benefited many of my loved ones. Finding the right fit is so important.

  11. These are such great tips to keep in mind. I think going with an open mind and having an idea of what you want to accomplish are so important.
    Samantha recently posted…Planner Decoration that is Easy, Affordable, & FunctionalMy Profile

    • Yes! Having an idea of what you want is so crucial, because otherwise there is SO much to potentially talk about and it’s easy to get off track! 🙂

  12. Counseling can be very helpful. I think mental health is a topic that we should talk about more often to help with daily wellness.

  13. You’ve put together a great list. I think these would be really useful to anyone considering counseling. As far as I understand, it’s not a cheap service so worth making the most out of it.

    Sally @ Life Loving
    #LifeLovingLinkie

  14. I like how you talk about making the most out of counseling. I think a lot of people just think that going is enough to fix their problems. However, like you said, committing to it and making goals are two important parts of successful counseling.

  15. Great points. I think it can be hard to invest in yourself when you feel pulled to spend your money on so many other important things. But you’re right, it needs to be a priority.
    Jamie @ Medium Sized Family recently posted…5 Ways We’ve Saved Money This Week 47My Profile

    • It really is hard. But I knew I wouldn’t be very motivated to reach my goals (financial or otherwise) if I didn’t take care of my mental health first. Thanks for reading friend <3

  16. Great list! Many people give up on therapy after the first visit because they’re not immediately “cured,” but you’re right, it takes time! And there’s more access to therapy than people realize; my college, for example, offered free sessions through our counseling center.

  17. I think it is valuable to recognize that counseling will require more than one session. Dealing with mental health is a process, not an event. I get into destructive habits when my stress level is too high, so I think I may look for a counselor that could give me strategies to overwhelmed-ness.

  18. My sister has been looking at seeing a counselor to help her transition to her new job and life. She’s been stressed adjusting from being a full-time stay-at-home mom to now working in a business setting after her divorce. I like how you pointed out that you need to do the work after your session ends. It makes sense that you’d want to take notes and apply the things you discussed throughout your sessions. You also make a great point about being open minded and letting go of expectations. I’ll need to let my sister know about this list, thanks.

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