Frequently Asked Questions
What is Counseling?
Counseling is a collaborative, therapeutic process, that takes place between a well-trained mental health professional and an individual, family or couple, with the goal of improving the quality of their lives and their overall functioning. We all experience difficult times during our lifetime, and most of the time individuals attending counseling are strong, intelligent people, who recognize they can use a little help. Counselors help clients identify goals and potential solutions to situations which cause emotional stress. In counseling individuals learn tools and coping skills that help them improve their self-esteem, communicate more effectively with their loved ones, manage or eliminate their fears to achieve their goals, heal emotional wounds, and achieve personal growth.
What counseling is NOT!
Counseling is not advice giving or telling someone how to live their lives. It’s also not just for individuals that suffer with serious mental illness.
What are the Goals of Counseling?
There can be many goals for counseling. Some of these will be long term goals such as improving the quality of your life, and healing emotional wounds. Others may be more immediate goals such as decreasing anxiety and depression symptoms, developing healthy relationships, changing behavior or decreasing/ending substance use. Whatever the goals for counseling, they will be set by the client according to what they want to work on in counseling. The counselor may make suggestions on how to reach that goal, but you decide where you want to go.
What are the Benefits of Counseling?
- Counseling can help you develop coping skills;
- make behavioral changes;
- reduce symptoms of mental health disorders;
- improve the quality of your life;
- learn to manage anger;
- learn to live in the present and many other advantages.
What are the risks of counseling?
- Counseling is an intensely personal process which can bring unpleasant memories or emotions to the surface.
- There are no guarantees that counseling will work for you.
- Clients can sometimes make improvements only to go backwards after a period of time.
- Progress may happen slowly.
- Counseling requires a very active effort on your part.
- In order to be most successful, you will have to work on things you and your counselor discuss outside of session.
How long does counseling last?
Many factors can influence the length of time counseling will last. Some of those factors include the client’s goals, the severity of the issue, the level of effort the client invests in learning and practicing the tools and skills learned, and many others. Counseling is a very personal and unique experience for each individual. Some clients' goals are to find a solution to an existing problem, which can last a short period of time. Others seek emotional healing and personal growth which can take longer. But no matter how long it takes, the ideal time to terminate counseling is when both the client and the counselor feel that the client has achieve her/his counseling goals. Unfortunately, too many individuals don’t pursue counseling for as long as they should, and end up reverting back to their old behaviors, and thus re-experience the same old difficulties or dissatisfaction they were experiencing before they went to counseling. This often makes the client feel that counseling doesn’t work.
What is the difference between a Mental Health Counselor and a Psychologist?
Counselors are master’s level health practitioners, however, the lines and distinctions between a counselor and a psychologist can sometimes blur. Unless there is testing involved (counselors generally are much more limited in the tests they can perform), usually when there’s serious mental illness, counselors focus mainly on helping the client gain insight, learn problem-solving skills, develop effective and healthy coping skills, manage symptoms of mental health disorders, and achieve personal growth. Counselors are also generally more affordable than psychologists.
Psychologists are doctorate level mental health practitioners. Their scope of practice typically includes administration of a wide range of tests including IQ tests and tests of neurological function. Psychologists may administer tests to patients they do not see on a regular basis, and are more likely to work with individuals with serious mental illness. Psychologists are trained to perform psychotherapy with a range of clients, but in many settings, general therapy roles will go primarily to counselors and other master’s level mental health practitioners. The reason? These individuals are more cost effective. Psychologists are also more frequently involved in research.
How do I know if I need to see a counselor?
When you feel that your efforts are not producing results, you’re feeling overwhelmed or the strategies you’ve tried to improve your circumstances no longer work, that’s when a counselor can be extremely helpful. Additional indicators may be that you’re not seeing lasting changes, you feel you need someone else’s perspective, your friends suggest you seek help, or you just don’t feel you’re reaching your full potential when it comes to your relationships, career, and your personal goals.
What can I expect in the first session?
During the first session you will be reviewing and signing the HIPAA and Informed Consent forms. We will then discuss what your goals for counseling are, and will review the Client Information and History form for clarification. We will then identify treatment goals, and most likely I’ll give you some homework (something to work on before you come to your next session). And lastly, we will secure an appointment for your next session. Hopefully we have gotten to know a little about each other during the process. Although a session usually last between 45 and 50 minutes, the first session will normally last 1 to 1 ½ hours, due to having to review, and discuss the forms you signed and completed.
Will what I say in therapy sessions be kept private and confidential?
The HIPAA document you sign and receive a copy of during your first session, explains everything about privacy and confidentiality. I value my clients’ privacy and confidentiality very much, however, there are special circumstances when I am obligated to report and share your information. The special circumstances include:
- you threaten to harm yourself or are a threat to someone else;
- child and elderly abuse or neglect are reported or suspected;
- your treatment records are requested by subpoena;
- to collect payment for services rendered.