Monday, November 8, 2010

The Counseling Process

Arriving for a counseling session for the first time can be a challenging experience. What will I be asked?
What will my counselor / therapist be like? How will I know what to say? What will it cost? Will my insurance pay for this? These are just a few of the questions that run through people’s minds when they first enter into the process called counseling or therapy.

People come for many reasons; often because a situation in their life or within them has become painful. It has become ineffective to unload on friends or family or perhaps there are things going on that need to be divulged in a safe place. Ultimately, that is what the arena of the counselor’s office becomes, a safe place in which to speak your reality and be supported in determining if changes would be helpful.

The first counseling session often feels like a huge question / answer session, which can be difficult for first time clients. Each question is designed to give the counselor information that will be used to help determine the problem and how it might be approached in a helpful and productive fashion. Questions regarding the person’s history with other counseling experiences and treatment will be asked as well as details about their medical history, family history, and habit and patterns of behavior. A history of previous treatment and the dynamics of the family will be taken. All questions are asked with the well-being of the client in mind. The counselor will guide the session and focus on your answers and concerns to determine with you, the focus of treatment.

Counseling sessions are confidential. The limits of confidentiality pertain to any verbal or physical abuse towards the client or perpetrated by the client as well as any homicidal or self-destructive indicators. These will be addressed in session with the client and will be reported in the proper method in accordance with the mandates governing these situations.

The costs of treatment are varied. Many counseling centers have set rates for services and take insurance. Some agencies use a suggested fee scale in which the clients’ rate of pay is determined by income and verified by proof of income or have contracts that help to pay for clients’ services. Private centers can allow clients to determine their own pay scale or have set fees. These questions can be asked at intake (the process in which you register for treatment) which may be covered when you arrive for your first session or over the phone.

The fit between counselor and client is personal and as different and varied as the many counselor and client combinations that are made. The important elements are that there is a feeling of trust, communication, and comfort that your best interest is foremost in priority. Sessions will bring about a panorama of feelings and thoughts, depending on the issues being addressed and the work being accomplished. Treatment is work in the sense that effort is put forth by the therapist (licensed counselor) and by the client to implement a change in thoughts and behavior which ultimately result in a change in feelings. All of this is a process and length of treatment varies depending on whether the issues are on-going or due to a specific situation.

Being informed is a great way to feel more comfortable in approaching a new activity. Counseling can benefit everybody. You do not have to have a crisis or be diagnosed with mental health disorder to benefit from counseling. Stay informed and live healthy!

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