Seeing a counselor is a big step on the road to wellness. When I first decided that seeing a counselor was something I should try, it was like feeling my way in the dark. I didn’t know why I should go or how it worked, how to choose one, how much it cost, etc.
I had to go about the process all on my own. I think it’s a good idea to talk to your spouse or significant other about your decision but keep in mind it’s for you. You may or may not get their support and encouragement. My ex-wife thought it was a sign of weakness, berated me and told me to “snap out of it!” Keep in mind she was a Registered Nurse who’d done a rotation through psychiatry. That really hurt but I didn’t let it keep me from seeking help. Do it for yourself. You matter.
Here’s a list of some things I came up with to help determine if you should go to a therapist/counselor.
When to go -
Feeling stuck in one or more areas of your life - relationships, work, family, spiritual/religious, etc.
Experiencing a lot of anxiety, depression, grief, anger or other unpleasant emotions for extended periods of time and to the point where they affect your everyday life.
Difficulty making decisions - minor and major.
Ruminating. Trouble letting go of the past.
Difficulty expressing yourself.
Withdrawing from family, friends and activities that you used to enjoy.
Acting out on your emotions to the detriment of yourself and others - i.e. angry outbursts, fighting
Making major decisions solely based on your emotions - quitting your job when you don’t have another but you do have a family to care for and bills to pay.
Experiencing burnout - feeling like your emotional reserves have been depleted and if ‘one more thing happens’ you don’t know if you can handle it.
Feeling too much or too little. Feeling on edge - or its opposite, feeling numb.
Lack of joy & humor - you find yourself feeling overly serious.
Irritation - especially at little things.
Inflexibility - In your thinking and feeling. All-or-nothing, mustabatory thinking/feeling.
You feel your life is out of balance in one or more areas of your life.
Once you decide to go, what do you do? How do you pick a good therapist? What makes for a good fit?
How to find one -
Ask around. You may have a friend or family member who’s been to one & can make a recommendation.
Professional referral - from your doctor, clergy, school or business.
Call around - flip through your phone book, call and talk to them.
Familiarize yourself with the types of therapy available - click here, here or here to start.
Call your insurance company and find out what your policy covers.
If you don’t have insurance or it’s not covered, call around and find one that accepts a sliding scale (based on your ability to pay). Catholic Social Services is one and they provide professional, non-denominational counseling based on what you can afford to pay. Many communities even have free counseling services.
Employee Assistance Programs are often provided by businesses but schools, churches and other institutions often provide free, or reduced cost, counseling too. Ask your employer, school, etc.!
If money is still a problem, take a hard look at your life and see how you can cut back on other things to afford getting help. Stop eating out or going to movies for a while. Most people have extra stuff they can sell - have a garage sale or sell your stuff on ebay.
Get a second job.
Personally I would avoid borrowing money from family or friends but everyone’s situation is different. Your family/friends may be glad to loan or give your a financial helping hand. If you go this route I would strongly suggest being responsible and committing yourself to repaying the loan and of course to the counseling process itself (nothing will sour a relationship quicker than borrowed money being blown).
What’s a good fit with a therapist/counselor?
Look for someone that you feel comfortable talking to about some very personal issues. How easy is it to talk with them? It will take a few visits to determine this.
A good counselor should be empathetic, objective and challenging.
A counselor should be non-judgemental.
How easy is it to contact them?
If you don’t think it’s a good fit, don’t hesitate to terminate your therapist and find a new one.
Your responsibilities -
Commit yourself to the process.
Make all your appointments and if you have to cancel one, give adequate notice.
Be honest with your therapist. Anything less will be of little use and a waste of money.
Realize it is not a quick fix but may take several months.
Accept it can be a painful process. You’re dealing with very emotional issues that most people want to just bury. It’s a therapist’s job to uncover those and help you deal with them.
When your therapist challenges you, meet the challenge. If they give you an assignment (i.e. keeping a journal, working on changing your thinking, talking to others in your life, etc.) do your best to complete it.
Be honest with yourself. Do you want to quit them because it’s too uncomfortable for you to face your problems or because it truly isn’t a good fit?
Well there you go. I’m sure there’s many more that can be added. If I missed any from your perspective, feel free to leave a comment!