3 things to consider before starting counseling

One thing I've noticed about millennials (per Pew Research Center, those of us born between 1981-1996) is what appears to be a widespread prioritization of mental wellness. Clients often tell me they talk about their counseling sessions with friends and family. It was not too long ago that folks kept their counseling appointments completely secret, so this is a really cool progression.

With more people talking about and interested in therapy, I thought it would be helpful to discuss a couple things to consider before making your first appointment. This is not an exhaustive list, but if you can answer "yes" to all 3, you might be in a good space to start therapeutic work. Here are a few things to consider before starting counseling:

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1. Do you have the space in your life for therapy?

Counseling is an investment that requires commitment. You will be spending time, money, and emotional energy to process and/or solve problems. Because it is a significant investment, I recommend assessing whether you have the space for it in your particular season.

  • Do you have a space in your schedule for consistent sessions? Most of my clients schedule weekly or bi-weekly sessions. Consistency is key for continued progress.

  • Do you have the finances available to pay for sessions? (and remember, finances don't need to be a barrier to mental health services)?

  • Do you have the emotional bandwidth to process your session content throughout the week? This part is really key. I've seen the best progress when clients have take the time to reflect, mentally organize, and practice new skills in between our counseling sessions. It's one thing to discuss change for 50 minutes each week, and quite another to put things into action each day.

2. Are you ready to be vulnerable and work hard?

I get it. Vulnerability is HARD. Part of vulnerability is trust- which is why your connection with your therapist is so important. You might not jibe with the first (or second) counselor you see. There is no one-size-fits-all therapist. If you're not vibing with your current counselor, I encourage you to assess your needs and find someone who might be a better fit.

Therapy is a lot like other things in life, in that you'll get out of it what you put in. You'll need to put in effort to get results. Working hard means you'll come prepared with a general idea of what you want out of therapy. I recommend coming into session with some thoughts of what you'd like to focus on that day. We'll have a treatment plan to guide us, but the best results will come if you are focused on what you want to process in session. 

3. Are you willing to accept the discomfort of change in order move forward?

You're considering therapy because something doesn't feel right. You want relief, healing, or increased insight. You've got two choices.

If nothing changes, you're stuck with the discomfort of what you're going through now.

If you change, you must deal with the discomfort that comes with a new way of being, feeling, acting, or thinking.

Both of these options require discomfort. It is up to you to decide what is more painful- staying the same, or changing. Please hear me- there will be times that you honestly do not have the emotional bandwidth to handle change. Give yourself some grace here. You will know when the pain of staying the same is stronger than the pain of changing.

If your answers are a resounding "YES" then it's time to get started! Take the first step by scheduling an appointment.