What is Counseling? Do You Need It? And What to Expect.

If you have spent any amount of time contemplating your mental health, attending counseling or therapy has likely crossed your mind. But deciding to participate is a big deal! It takes plenty of courage to get started.

Allow this article to ease your mind and answer some of the most common questions about counseling and therapy.

What is Counseling?

By definition, counseling is providing assistance relating to a plethora of issues revolving around your mental health. This could be from helping you through the grief of losing your cat, to the havoc that chronic pain can have on your mind and body in day-to-day life.

You may be thinking: I haven’t lost anyone and nothing hurts. Can I still benefit from counseling? Yes! But we will cover that more in a moment.

Difference between Counseling and therapy.

So, is there a difference?

Yes and no. Counseling and therapy are often used interchangeably, but the most significant difference is the licensing.

Some counselors and therapists need different/more licensing than others. But as long as you are working with a Master’s level clinician, such as a Licensed Professional Counselor or Licensed Clinical Social Worker, you can be sure that you are working with a mental health professional that can provide adequate counseling/therapy.

Be sure to understand that a “Life Coach” is not licensed. There are no requirements at the state or federal level to be a “Life Coach,”—and therefore, they’re not recommended for mental health.

There isn’t much of a difference between counseling and therapy when it comes to the actual practice, but it can still be helpful to know the finer points when evaluating where to start.

Dr. Jaime Zuckerman summed the difference up well when she wrote, “Therapy takes place over a longer period and tends to focus on more complex issues, while counseling tends to take place on a short-term basis and tends to address a more focused issue.”

With that said, think about what your goals with counseling are. If you’re unsure, take out a pen and paper and write out a list of things you would like to work on. This should give you a good idea of what your needs are.

But remember, at the end of the day, whether you see a counselor or a therapist, both are there to help you achieve your goals and win your life back!

In fact, some licensed professional counselors call themselves therapists or psychotherapists—just as social workers and licensed marriage and family therapists may call themselves counselors or therapists—it’s just a matter of what this clinician is doing with clients in their practice.

What do Studies Say about Counseling and Therapy?

Considering trauma affects everyone differently, depending on their upbringing, personality, awareness of the problem, among other things, you may think it difficult for studies to test how well counseling works.

While this may be possible, one thing several studies have concluded is that therapy does, in fact, workIf you let it.

In order for counseling to be effective, you have to trust the process and be vulnerable, though it’s okay to take it slow at first. Telling someone the rough details of your life is a big deal, after all.

This is why choosing the right counselor for you is so important, which can involve many emails, phone calls, and possibly a consultation.

Once you have built up trust with your counselor, it will become easier to open up and begin to uncover where the real work needs to occur.

Your counselor is there to help you discover yourself. This is done by analyzing your thought patterns and behaviors. A counselor can look at your life objectively and point out areas that need some work and how to do that work effectively.

Counselors are trained to help you in a hopeful and encouraging manner, something your friends and family might struggle to do, not because they don’t love you, but because they are often too close to the situation at hand. A counselor can sit back and help you choose the right path for you and only you.

Different Types of Therapy

Interestingly enough, studies also show that while different therapy styles can produce slightly better results in different scenarios, the effectiveness is about the same overall.

Despite the slight difference, it can be helpful to know the types of therapy when looking for your best fit. Here are four of the most well-known types of therapy.

  • Psychotherapy (AKA talk therapy): This type is the most well-known. Talking through your issues can paint a clearer picture of your life and can help you steer away from harmful patterns and habits.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: This type of therapy is excellent for those who wish to focus on one issue at a time. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy has also been shown to help with anxiety and depression.
  • EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) Can be great for helping with trauma recovery or anxiety and depression caused by going through or witnessing a traumatic event.
  • Family Therapy: Family therapy can be highly effective for those struggling with miscommunication, parent-child conflict, a shared trauma, or other issues a family may face. It’s great for those who want to pull their family closer and solve problems that might otherwise fester for too long.

Does Everyone Need Counseling or Therapy?

To this question, many will say yes, their fists pumped in the air as they think about how therapy has helped them. Others will say no. Perhaps they fell in with an ill-equipped counselor, or maybe talking through their problems makes them uncomfortable to the point of not being able to continue.

Either way, the truth is, counseling is a very personal process. It doesn’t matter if everyone needs it because it’s not about everyone. It’s about you and your mental well-being.

Attending counseling is about creating a safe place. Having this safe place can be helpful when the outside world becomes too cluttered and loud to think straight. The tools such as coping mechanisms taught in counseling and therapy can help you take back control of your life, even in stressful situations.

Still, even with this knowledge, giving counseling a try can be daunting. Luckily, Health for Life Counseling offers 15-minute phone consultations to ensure this is the right fit for you.

What to Expect in Your First Session.

Now that you have decided to attend counseling, or at least decided to look into it further, what should you expect from your first session?

After your initial phone consultation, it will be time to set up your first appointment. From there, you will meet with your counselor or therapist and continue to discuss your goals for counseling. If no goals come to mind, an excellent place to start is to share some of the issues you’ve been struggling with.

In Conclusion.

Now that you know what counseling is, what studies say about it, and what to expect, you can make the leap and give counseling a try. Remember to take things at your own pace. There is no pressure!

So take a deep breath and give Health for Life Counseling a call at 616-200-4433 or reach out to us on our contact page to get started!

Learn more about the Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids

Learn more about Counseling and Therapy services at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids

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