Archive of ‘Counseling’ category

Counseling 101: Questions You Want Answered…But May Be Afraid to Ask

What Is Counseling?

Counseling (which is synonymous with therapy) literally means “to help” and/or “provide guidance” to someone. Generally, when people seek counseling, they are seeking professional help with something in their or a loved one’s life. Counseling can be done individually, with a family member(s), with a significant other, and/or in group settings and may occur in person, on the phone or over the computer. It will be tailored to what the client’s needs are when they seek help. When in counseling, people have the opportunity to be vulnerable and share personal information (which we understand can be scary!) in an effort to start the journey to becoming a healthier version of themselves and begin living their best life possible.

Julie Burke

By: Julie Burke, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Susan Gonzales, LPC-S

Counselors offer a safe place to discuss various life events (whether they’re in the past, current or upcoming) and will never pass judgment. In short, counseling (or therapy) is a process of meeting with a trained professional to resolve various life happenings. People have a stereotypical view of counseling that involves someone laying on a couch and repeatedly hearing, “How does that make you feel?”.  While there is generally comfortable furniture in the therapy room and that question may be asked to help process statements, counseling is MUCH more than just talking to a therapist and talking about your feelings.

Why Do People Go To Counseling?

People go to counseling for a multitude of problems. Some people may start going to therapy to address major life transitions e.g, having children, getting married, going through a divorce; when in need of managing mental health conditions e.g., depression, anxiety; everyday stressors, and/or with the intention of improving their relationships with themselves and others. Counseling can address someone’s drug use, sexuality, communication concerns, identity issues, etc. There is no wrong reason to go to therapy. Whether you perceive your problem as big or small, there is someone who can help you navigate the uncertainties of your life and process these things with you.

Can I Go Even If I Don’t Have A Problem?

ABSOLUTELY! There is a huge misconception that in order for people to go to counseling, they must be “crazy”; that is absolutely not true. In fact, the majority of people who go to counseling are ordinary people who are struggling with common, everyday issues. Because of the stigma that exists with going to counseling, people often think that if they begin therapy, there is something wrong with them. For example, if someone is seeking couples counseling, they may believe it must be because they are failing as a couple or if people need parenting support. Then in their mind, clearly it is because they are not good parents. Know that is entirely false and it is completely okay (and normal) to seek help.

How Long Does Counseling Take?

This question is arguably impossible to answer, but it’s definitely best for clients to go to therapy on a weekly basis for at least 6-8 weeks to build rapport and have a good relationship with their counselor.  This allows the therapist and client to get in a regular routine of meeting and getting to know one another and working through various problems. At that point in time, clients and their counselors can evaluate the relationship that has been built so far and the progress that has been made and determine what therapeutic goals have not been met.

In many cases, in therapy, more issues will be explored than the ones that initially brought the client to therapy. It is important to acknowledge that going to therapy takes courage and dedication. Counseling does not offer a quick-fix to things. Progress happens gradually, but it gives people necessary life skills and coping mechanisms to use for the long-run.

What Are The Benefits Of Going To Counseling?

Where do I begin? Different benefits of going to counseling include, but are not limited to: greater self-awareness and confidence, improved relationships, stress alleviation, less anxiety, better communication, enhanced relationships, peace of mind, life satisfaction, etc. If you put in the work to improve yourself, with the right counselor, you can empower self-growth and ultimately lead a happier, healthier life.

“But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.”  -Carrie Bradshaw


Why Choose EMDR Therapy?

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

Since the birth of the psychological field, there have been dozens of therapeutic approaches that have been developed to help individuals work through their struggles. One therapy that is relatively new, at least in relation to how long others have been around, is known as a therapy called EMDR. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. I’m going to tell you a little bit about what EMDR is and how it can be used in therapy to treat a wide array of difficulties.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a therapy developed by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1989. In 1987 Dr. Shapiro stumbled upon the observation that eye movements can lessen the intensity of disturbing thoughts and used this observation to fuel research that led to her publication in The Journal of Traumatic Stress, establishing EMDR as a therapy used to treat post traumatic stress. Since then researchers have gone on to show how EMDR is not only very effective in treating trauma and PTSD, but can also treat other difficulties such as:

  • performance anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • body dysmorphic disorders
  • painful memories
  • phobias
  • complicated grief
  • dissociative disorders
  • personality disorders
  • pain disorders

How Does EMDR Work?

There is no way to know how any psychotherapy works on the neurological level, but there are some things we do know. When a person is very upset and under duress, the brain cannot process information as it would under normal conditions. (See my previous blog about how trauma affects the brain). So parts of the memory get stored separately and “frozen in time.” When the memory is then activated, it can feel very much like the person is experiencing the memory as if it is currently happening: the same feelings, thoughts and body sensations can resurface with the same intensity as when the event occurred because those things never processed through adequately and thus remain unchanged. These memories interfere with the way a person reacts to and views the world and others.

It appears that EMDR has an effect on how your brain processes information and allows the “frozen” material a chance to process through in a functional manner. Once the memory has been processed adequately, it no longer has the same effect on the person. Many individuals come away feeling neutral about the memory. By using bilateral stimulation (meaning both the left and right hemispheres are alternately stimulated), that’s where the eye movements come in, these “stuck” memories get activated and normal information processing can be resumed. This is similar to what happens naturally in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the cycle of sleep in which information taken in through the previous day is processed and sorted into short-term and long-term memory networks. If you have ever observed someone during the REM sleep cycle, you may have noticed that their eyes are darting back and forth underneath the eyelids. So really this is different from other therapies that work toward the same goals because it works on the physiological level.

Why Choose EMDR Therapy

So, Why Choose EMDR Therapy?

In short, EMDR therapy is optimal because it can usually achieve the same goal as similar therapies with fewer sessions. It can also be useful when talk therapy has not proven to be effective. Since some experiences seem to get “frozen” in the memory networks, talking about them may not be enough. EMDR works on the neurological level to access those memories in a way that talk therapy may not be able to, so then the memory can be worked through. Survivors of trauma have also reported that EMDR therapy was optimal because it is not necessary to talk in detail about the traumatic event in order for EMDR to be effective. That doesn’t mean that it may not still be painful and difficult to bring up, but the whole narrative does not need to be given and once the memory is activated the person can move through the process with less difficulty. The brain moves towards healing just like our bodies do. If you cut your hand, your body works to heal itself. The brain does the same thing, and EMDR helps remove those barriers so it can.

This has been a brief description of what EMDR is and how it works. EMDR has been shown to be effective with children, teens, and adults. I hope it has been helpful and I hope you will consider EMDR therapy for yourself and your loved ones in the future! If you would like more information on EMDR you can visit http://www.EMDRIA.org and http://www.EMDR.com.


6 Things Your Therapist Wants You to Know

The decision to work with a therapist is an important one. Whether you are entering therapy by choice or because a parent or caregiver has decided you should, there are a few things your therapist would like for you to know…

By: Caitlyn Weeks, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Caitlyn Weeks, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

If it was easy, you would’ve already done it.

When I meet with a client for our first session, I don’t enter the room with a solution in hand. The truth is, if whatever is bringing you to therapy was easy, you would have already found the solution yourself. As we go through life, we build up a variety of ways to manage our challenges and often do a great job with the skills and tools we develop. If you’re coming to therapy, it’s because it’s complicated and therapists understand this.

No challenge is too small.

Sometimes we experience challenges that lay just below the surface. They don’t feel like headline news but consistently disrupt our plans and goals. We might notice these worries or concerns in dreams, when our mind wanders, or while sitting in traffic. Often, we seem to evaluate our stressors in terms of severity. Let’s drop the “Goldilocks mindset” of too big or too small and recognize that significant relief can come from addressing our day-to-day challenges. In doing so, you can develop tools that apply across situations and relationships and support your future self as well.

This is not (insert movie title here).

I like Netflix as much as the next person and don’t live under a rock. I’ve seen the portrayals of therapeutic relationships on TV and in movies. This is not Hollywood. While an inappropriate relationship or a twisted mental hospital setting may add drama on screen, these are things taken very seriously in the real world. Therapists are held to intentionally high standards (including state boards and codes of ethics) and we believe the therapeutic relationship is one built on mutual respect, not unhealthy choices.

Therapy isn’t for “sissies.”

I believe that engaging in a therapeutic relationship is an act of courage. Opening up to a stranger in an unfamiliar setting can set the bravest palms to sweating. Vulnerability can be terrifying (and really powerful). I know you might be nervous and I’ve been there, too. Like many therapists, I’ve been the client and I know what it is like to sit on the other side of “the clipboard.” I’ve also had life-changing experiences through therapy and believe that it is worth the initial anxiety. In therapy, we focus on building a unique relationship that exists when there is a feeling of safety in the room. Clients are often surprised by how quickly the fears that felt so big in the parking lot get out of the way and let us get started.

“But it’s just talking…”

On average, I meet with a client once a week for 50 minutes. There are 1440 minutes in a single day and 10,080 minutes in a week. Obviously, our session is a small fraction of your time. The work we do in session is only part of the process and the work you do outside of session is incredibly important. Going to therapy with the expectation of minimal investment of outside time is like learning the rules of football without ever showing up for practice and then wondering why the championship game didn’t go so well for you. Therapy is about developing awareness, understanding, and tools and then applying that work to your life. There will still be challenges and experiences we wish had different outcomes. That said, your life is full of opportunities to practice and mistakes are wonderful opportunities for learning.

We don’t think you’re crazy.

Labels often get in the way and popular culture seems to have a pathology-of-the-month. A situation may seem shocking or embarrassing to you but we’re definitely not here to judge. With years of school and training, I only become more sensitive to the fact that any experience involves a complicated interaction of factors like your genes, your environment, our society, your family system… (the list goes on and on). Labels can get in the way of process. We’re here to help you figure out what matters to you and what you’d like to do about it.

 

Therapy isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s incredibly personal and should be. Finding a therapist with a style that fits for you is important and will help you maximize your time, energy, and money. If you think an unbiased perspective in a safe space could be helpful for whatever feels big or recurrent in your life right now, I encourage you to give therapy a try.


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