Frequently asked questions
How do I know if I need counseling?
Counseling helps you fix things about your life that you don't like. There are a lot of ways to fix problems, but counseling helps to change how you approach the problem (and because of that, it changes the problem itself!). Most of us have at least one issue we have a difficult time changing. Problems such as panic attacks, anxiety, depression, stress, feeling stuck in life, feeling stuck in our job, work burnout, lack of motivation, low self-esteem, anger issues, loneliness and isolation, social anxiety, loss of someone we loved, friendship problems, romantic relationship problems, family relationship problems, or past trauma - just to name a few!
If you don't relate to any of the problems I just listed, congratulations, your life is better than anyone I've ever met (and if that's the case, please write me an email and to tell me how you did it!). But if you're like most of us....you've got some problems you've trying to deal with!
Counseling helps to change YOU. And when you change, your problems gets better.
What if my problems aren't bad enough for counseling?
One of the most common misconceptions about counseling is that only people with "really big problems" go to counseling. All humans are born with two very big needs - (1) to be perfectly loved and (2) to be perfectly safe. Unfortunately, everyone grew up in an imperfect family and so no one ended up being perfectly loved or perfectly safe. In all the ways that your needs weren't met the way you needed them to be, you became wounded. Not all of your wounds are obvious to everyone, but they all do cause problems in your life in some way or another.
The question is not - "how bad do my problems have to be to go to counseling?" The question should be "do I want my life to be even better than it is now?" If you would like your life to be better in some way, then counseling is for you!
What is counseling like? Do I lie down on the couch while you take notes and analyze me?
What? Whoa, no way! That'd be weird. Who'd want to pay for that? Counseling is a little bit like meeting a good friend for coffee (having a friendly, comforting, great conversation) PLUS a little bit like meeting with a doctor (talking to a professional who knows a lot of things about humans). Yes, sometimes people get emotional because we're talking about serious topics, but I'm not analyzing you, just trying to support you and help you get to a new place.
Counseling is a process that depends upon you and what you'd like to talk about! But don't worry, If you get stuck or don't know what to do, I'll help you out. People sometimes begin by talking about how they have come to the place they’re in: what's hurting, what’s not working in their lives, what they have experienced, and what they would like to be different.
Here's the part that makes this different than just meeting with a friend: We then work together to construct a new understanding of your experience and of who you are. As people, we have a really difficult time understanding our own lives. A lot of healing happens when we talk to someone with a compassionate and objective point of view who knows a lot about the human experience. Sometimes I'll present observations or other points of view that begin to put the puzzle pieces together for us about things that haven't made sense before now. I think counseling can often feel like going to get a massage - ultimately awesome and very relieving, but sometimes there's hard work done on your muscles.
Everyone is nervous when trying something new, but I'm here to guide you and help you in your sessions so that you don't have to figure it out by yourself.
I don't think you'll understand me or what I've gone through
Although I haven't gone through everything my clients have gone through, I'm also human and have had many experiences of pain, confusion, and heart-break and the whole range of other emotions and experiences. I might not have experienced your exact situation, but I hope to bring kindness and compassion to my understanding of you and what you've experienced.
What if my friends and family don't understand why I'm going to counseling?
I'm sorry if anyone in your life doesn't understand you for taking the courageous step towards counseling. YAY YOU for doing it anyways! If going to counseling feels too vulnerable to tell other people, you don't have to tell them until you're ready to tell them. :)
What if I'm too embarrassed to tell you about my problems?
A great starting point is getting to know each other first in the counseling room. We can take our time talking about the things that are difficult to talk about. Many, many people have had severely traumatic things happen in their lives. I believe your life stories are incredibly important and should be treated with extreme kindness and compassion.
What if I don't know what to talk about?
Most people don't know what to talk about at first, and that's okay! I'll help you figure out what we can talk about. Sometimes even when you've done counseling for a long time you'll arrive at your session and not know what you want to talk about. We can always figure out together what to focus on in the session.
Do I have to know what I want to work on in order to get counseling?
Many people come to counseling because they (1) have a sense that something is wrong with their life, or (2) have heard so many great recommendations from their friends and family members. If you have even the slightest "I want something better for myself" inkling, then we have plenty to work with in our sessions together. People who work on themselves become better spouses, parents, and friends. That's a plus, right? :)
How long will counseling take?
For better or for worse, relationships are some of the most powerful forces that form us and change us. A safe and trusting connection with your counselor is a key component of what helps lasting change to take place. It goes miles farther than giving simple “how-tos," advice on life, or suggestions of what to do next. Changing how you live your life is a process.
The length of time you spend in counseling will be different for each person. Some people need a few weeks, others need several months, and still others need a few years. Most people find weekly sessions most beneficial to facilitate the change process. Counseling ideally comes to an end point when you have experienced significant healing, growth, and positive change toward your goals, or when you have fully accomplished what you came to counseling to do.
How will I know counseling is working?
- You start to get more understanding about your current problems
- You start to get more understanding about yourself and about your family
- You start to notice your problems MORE (Oops, I know, I know, but this IS a good sign)
- Your problems seem to get worse (It's only because you're noticing them more!)
- You start seeing your problems differently than how you've seen them before
- You start to apply some of what you've learned in therapy to your life
- You start to have more compassion on yourself
- You start to have more compassion on other people
- You start noticing that you react differently to your problems
- You go through a grieving process (seeing things in a different light can be difficult at first)
- You start to experience more personal peace
- You're less angry, anxious, or depressed
- You have more clarity
- You may experience less body symptoms (headaches, stomach aches, tension aches)
What is the difference between therapy and counseling?
The words "therapy" and "counseling" are interchangeable. The word "counseling" is a slightly more broad term than "therapy" (like the difference between "canine" and "dog"). But I've noticed people have a different FEELING about these two words. "Counseling" sounds like "Hey there, I'm just working on some things that aren't my favorite about my life", while the word "therapy" sounds like "I'M WORKING ON SOME INTENSE PROBLEMS AND THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME!" (i.e. "therapy" SOUNDS more intense). But really, counseling and therapy are the exact same thing, and neither one means that there's something "wrong" with you! :)