I met a friend for coffee yesterday who told me the story about how counseling literally changed her life. Many years ago, she was going through a divorce and had two little kids at home. She was struggling in all aspects of her life so she went to counseling.
She told me at first she thought the counselor was going to “give her all the answers,” but she quickly realized therapy is a journey where you have to find your own answers. She reflects back on that time and is so grateful that she was willing to go through the process.
She can see now in hindsight, counseling is what helped her to have a healthy relationship with her new husband. She is more confident, happier, and is able to be a better parent.
I tell this story because I think when someone is seeking out counseling it can be hard to know what kind of impact it will have on you. You want to feel better, but you are not sure what that will look like or feel like.
Therapy, like anything we do that is worthwhile, helps if you “do the work.” The counselor teaches you skills or a new way of thinking about something and it is up to you to apply it and see if it helps.
This may mean setting boundaries in relationships, being more assertive with co-workers, or practicing mindfulness to circumvent your anxious thoughts. Trying those new skills can be really tough. The people in your life may wonder why you are acting differently… and they may not like it!
Getting through that uncomfortable feeling of trying something different is one of the parts of changing for the better. It may make you feel vulnerable or scared. Any time we are growing as individuals these are normal feelings to experience.
Some people avoid coming to therapy, even if they know it could help them because they want to avoid feeling vulnerable. They may be worried that the counselor cannot help them and they will be back where they started, so they don’t try at all.
There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to embarking on a journey of change and self improvement. Coming to counseling is a brave first step. And what better place to feel vulnerable than in an office with a professional who is a nonjudgmental, compassionate listener?
And there are always plenty of tissues.
My friend who described the transformational nature of her counseling experience is not guaranteed for everyone. Sometimes an individual starts counseling and it isn’t a good fit and they quit before they make progress. Or maybe they aren’t quite ready to “go there” and open up to make real progress–and that’s ok.
As we embark upon a new year think about how your life could be different if you improved your relationships, felt less anxious, or were better able to manage your stress. 2017 could be your year to make some changes and therapy could be a tool for you to reach your goals.
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.