Four Questions to Ask Before Counseling
What’s the problem from my perspective?
This may seem obvious, but it’s often elusive. Describe the problem by breaking it into two parts: facts and perceptions. Facts are parts of the story that are clearly agreed upon: It was Tuesday; I was with my brother and nephew; We were at Le Peep eating lunch; etc. Perceptions are personal reactions to experiences: I was anxious; I felt confused; His words hurt and I felt embarrassed; etc. Practice explaining the problem succinctly from both facts and perceptions.
What do I want?
Again, this more difficult than it appears. Many of us can give a laundry list of what we don’t want, but may struggle with what we do want. If you don’t know what you want, the therapist can help you get in touch with your legitimate needs. You might know what you want, but have been unable to ask for it. The therapist’s role is to help you to take some risks to learn how to ask. You may have asked ineffectively, and need to learn new ways to meet legitimate needs.
What style works best for me?
Not all counseling styles are the same, and each counselor is unique. Think of someone who has positively influenced you – a parent, mentor, coach, friend, or boss. What qualities did they have that helped have a positive impact on you? Let your therapist know what has been effective in the past, and if it’s not a style he/she employs you may need to continue your search for good help.
How will I measure progress?
It’s good to give this some thought before you arrive for your visit with your counselor. Measuring progress can be tricky, but it’s essential to build momentum toward a great result. “My spouse will fall into my arms and profess undying love for me” would be a great result, but in deeply hurting marriages it’s not going to be the first indicator of progress. The first indicator will be far simpler, “She’ll make eye contact with me”, or “He’ll ask me about my day”. The benefit of measuring progress is two-fold: you learn what is having a positive impact (cognitive reward) and you feel encouragement (emotional reward).
The heart cry of most counselors that I know is this, “Help me help you!” Most of us entered this profession because we felt called to help people in difficult seasons of life. As you prepare to seek help through counseling—especially if you are seeking help for the first time—there may be some anxiety over your first session.
Answering these four questions will help you prepare and help me help you once you arrive! And if you are already connected with a counselor, review these to see if you now know the answers.
by Chuck Fallon, LPC – Read more about Chuck here or call 720-295-2827