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Counseling Do’s and Don’ts
Counseling is meant to help everyone who enters it. If you have difficulty in your life such as anxiety, depression, pornography, or marriage problems that you can’t handle on your own, counseling is a great option. It’s not guaranteed, however, to make everything better. Counseling is a great option for so many problems and a lot of the outcome is up to you. There are things you can do to make it more effective. There are also things you can do that will get in the way of your progress.
Let’s talk about both of them here. I’ve taken these points from my experience as a marriage and family therapist for nearly two decades between California and Utah. Over the years I have noticed what seems to help individuals and couples as they enter counseling. You can have the best therapist in the world, but if you approach counseling wrong, it won’t matter. So, here we go with what to do and what not to do and you participate in counseling.
Do’s Of Counseling
Do – show up. One of the best things you can do is simply go. Be there. Participate. And when things start to get better, don’t stop. Keep going. Ironically, many clients who start doing better, stop coming to therapy. They then get worse in their lives. They don’t give themselves enough time to solidify what they are learning. Conversely, many who are struggling in life as they attend therapy also start to loosen up their attendance. Counseling can’t help if you don’t actually go, right? So, even if you are feeling hopeless or stuck – go. Eventually you can free yourself from mental health issues that bind you down.
Do – be honest with your counselor. This one would seem like a no-brainer. But it is something the many clients fall short with. They don’t tell the whole story. They omit details that matter for whatever reason. So, open up with your counselor about your individual problems or marriage problems. They know methods to help you, but need all the information of your life (Related Articles: Couples Therapy and Learn How To Cope: Individual Therapy). They are not mind readers and certainly want you to share.
Also, even if your honesty has to do with your relationship with your counselor, share it. Your therapist is trained and skilled, but is still an imperfect person. They might make a mistake and do something that hurts you. If this happens, tell them about it in a healthy way (Related Article: How To Communicate Effectively: Avoid These Two Communication Problems In Marriage and How To Communicate Better Through Boundaries). A good counselor will be able to handle this and make it right.
Do – have hope that things can get better. There is a chance that it won’t help, but counseling is more likely to help than doing nothing at all. So, give it a chance and stick with it. Hope is a powerful tool as you battle depression, anxiety, couples problems, or pornography issues. It can help you get through tough times. And, if you are struggling to find hope, be around others who can lend you theirs.
Do – understand that it’s a process and not an event. There will be highs and lows of counseling. You will ‘get worse before you get better’ in some instances. For example, if you are giving up an addiction like pornography, it will get worse before it gets better. As you let go of pornography and learn healthy ways of dealing with uncomfortableness in life, you will also feel pain (Related Article: Pornography Counseling: Find Recovery And Healing). You will start to feel all that you were numbing out with pornography. This can be hard and difficult and is part of the process. So, stick with the process and go on the ride.
Don’ts Of Counseling
Don’t – think that your marriage problems have to do with just your spouse. Look at yourself as well. You guys got into your relationship problems together and need to get out of them together as well. You are just as much a part of the solution as your spouse is. Even if they are struggling with something that seems very individual (i.e. pornography). You both have a role and counseling can help you find it (Related Article: Couples Therapy – Pornography Problem).
Don’t – think that the therapist is going to ‘fix’ you. They have skills and tools to help, but if you don’t learn those skills and pick up those tools, then nothing will change in your life. A counselor can only help you as long as you are willing to do your part. So, do it. Be courageous and try new things. Put yourself out there. The counselor will guide and direct, and it’s up to you to apply and move.
Don’t – become overly dependent on counseling and your therapist. There is a point when you need to go off on your own after learning new skills and practicing them in therapy. Some clients stay in therapy too long because they are afraid to try life without the safety net of your therapist. If this is you, then consider tapering down off of therapy by spacing appointments out. Your counselor will be able to help you do this.
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Written by Triston Morgan, PhD, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist