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