Are you considering the idea of seeing a counselor or just curious to know more about what counseling is like? Do you know someone who you think may benefit from counseling but they seem unsure about the idea? If you answered yes to any of these, this post is for you.
Before I share things you need to know about counseling and counselors, I want to briefly share what my background is. I am a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern who has already passed the exam required for licensure and will be eligible to apply for my license as a mental health counselor next month. I have worked in home, school, and hospital settings with both kids and adults. I have gone/am currently going through my own therapy process as well.
Without further ado…
- Many counselors have gone through their own counseling process and/or have been diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their life. This is good to know because it is very easy to put a counselor on a pedestal and picture them as a beacon of mental health, untouched by any of the cruel mental afflictions that others have. The problem with viewing a counselor this way is that it makes you feel like lesser of a person or like counselors do not have true empathy. One warning though, many counselors will not share this up front with you. This decision to not reveal this information is not typically out of shame or hiding but rather due to not wanting to take the focus off of you. As a client, their focus is supposed to be primarily on you during the session. If they do disclose anything personal, an appropriate counselor would do this because they think it would be beneficial for you to know.
- Most counselors do not have a hidden agenda to “make” you take medication. I was recently talking to someone who revealed they were afraid of that happening and as a result were nervous to even see a counselor. A lot of the counselors I know believe medication can be a helpful tool but that it should not be forced onto someone. One of the principles that counselors are taught in school is that individuals autonomy should be respected (as long as it is not posing an imminent threat to the client).
- Although TV and the media typically depicts counseling as once a week and at the same time each week, this is not how it always goes in real life. I have heard of counselors providing therapy anywhere from 2x a week to 1x a month. It depends on both client need and therapist availability.
- Counselors are ethically advised against “dual relationships” and connecting with clients through social media. Most therapists will not accept a Facebook or real life friend request from a client. It is nothing personal against their clients. Rather, it helps therapists be less biased and demonstrate healthy boundaries. Therapists are caring professionals that provide a therapeutic service for their clients.
- The Counselor’s role is to help you learn how to cope better with your emotions, function better in your life, and help you gain insight/self-understanding. A counselor’s job is not to always give you specific advice, rather they give you tools to help you be better able to make healthy choices for your life. Counselors journey with you and serve as a guide, not a God.