by Rachel Morici, LPC
As a counselor, I often begin my therapy with a discussion on what clients would like to get out of this experience. It is so important to understand your goals when seeking out a therapist because there are so many different styles and approaches out there. I encourage those of you that are interested in seeking counseling to think about a few things before deciding on a counselor. Use the first few sessions to interview your therapist. Following is a list of considerations that might be helpful in making your choice.
- Be mindful of connection & comfort with this person.
Of course it takes time to trust others. It is also difficult to disclose your innermost secrets to a stranger. But, in that first session, simply NOTICE your connection to this person. Do you feel comfortable with him/her? Do you get a sense that he/she fits well with your personality? Just as you would notice a tendency to be drawn to or reject a potential friend, be AWARE of the same concept with your potential therapist.
- Ask questions about the therapist’s approach and style.
There are many different ways to reach your goals. Understand what approach to therapy works for you and ensure that your therapist is capable of being sensitive to this. Be assertive and ask for what you want. You might make a request such as, “I need my counselor to be direct and honest with me” or “I need more visual ways of understanding new information, like handouts or creative solutions.” Some of us appreciate a more psychoanalytic approach which allows a lot of room for talking, processing and delving into the past. Others need a more structured approach that is driven by specific goals and learning tools, which is often found in cognitive behavioral approaches, such as dialectical behavior therapy.
- Think about how you best learn and receive information.
There are three ways of learning and taking in information; auditory (a preference to hear information), kinesthetic (a preference for learning related to experience and practice—in other words, they prefer their learning to be connected with reality) and visual (a preference for learning through reading and writing). In therapy, you will be learning a lot. It makes sense that this preference be recognized and respected in your counseling.
- And finally, BE OPEN & WILLING in order to get the most out of your experience in therapy.
This means acknowledging your own part in your therapy and actively participating. Some of us might begin counseling with a false hope that simply attending and showing up to therapy sessions will solve our problems. The real work comes from the “in-between” time. The most important step in beginning to look at yourself is to be willing to try new things, to see different angles of a situation and to be open and honest with yourself and your counselor. “Willingness” is about being open and accepting doing what is needed, even if it means stepping outside of your comfort zone.