What is it like to go to counseling?
First and foremost, you should feel comfortable and safe in counseling. The first few sessions are usually spent gathering information and building trust and rapport. If you have been referred by your primary care provider, school, or another professional, you may want to give me written permission to have contact with that person or to obtain records, but this is always your choice. The fact that you are in counseling, your records, and everything that you share is confidential. We’ll go over the paperwork briefly to make sure all of our bases are covered and that you are fully informed about the counseling experience. If we determine that I am not the right fit for your needs, I’ll refer you to another provider and do whatever I can to find you a good match.
Next we’ll talk about your goals in counseling. What are you hoping to accomplish in counseling? What are the problems or symptoms that you would like to address? I’ll ask about any past experiences you have had in counseling and we’ll come up with a treatment plan to make your sessions are as productive and helpful as possible. I see you as the “expert” on your own life. My hope is to partner with you on this journey, to give you support and encouragement, and to increase your skills, knowledge and awareness.
I’ve found that counseling is rarely boring! It’s also not always serious. I’ve been told that the sounds of laughter are commonly heard coming from my office! Counseling isn’t always fun, but it should be enjoyable a lot of the time.
My style of counseling is a dynamic conversation where we are sharing information and ideas. I use a marker board for visual aids and word pictures. Some of my long-time clients often joke that they “know they should pay attention when the marker board comes out,” because the things we write and draw are usually things that they want to remember. It also provides a way for my clients to “take home” the content of our sessions by snapping a quick photo of the board to come back to later.
With children and teens, I often use toys, crafts, fidgets, games, and other means of interacting. The children I work with enjoy working on a marble maze or playing “Shoot the Moon” while we talk about life and problem solve together. Often, with youth, I also check in with parents to give very general progress updates (making sure I respect the privacy of the youth). I also take time to listen to parental concerns. If it seems that family sessions could be appropriate, we’ll talk about it and try to schedule a time to meet together.
Counseling shouldn’t last forever. If we’re working toward our goals and using our time well, you’ll probably come to the conclusion at some point that counseling is no longer needed. I love it when this happens! Some issues can be resolved in as little as 6–8 sessions. Other issues can take longer, such as a history of trauma/abuse, attachment problems, and long-term mental illness. Along the way, we’ll be checking in about how you think things are going. Your feedback is always welcome!