What to Expect in Therapy and Counseling

Psychotherapy and counseling serves many purposes.  It can provide relief from anxiety, stress and depression.  It can help you work through a personal or professional crisis and productively address conflicts in your life.  It can help you navigate numerous life transitions.  It may help uncover reasons behind recurring patterns in relationships or unproductive behaviors.  It can make it possible for you to change those things you are able to change, and can help you bear those things that can't be changed.  

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The decision to enter therapy or counseling often arises from challenging circumstances.  So what is it about therapy that works?  Research has shown that the most consistent aspect of therapy that promotes healthy change is a

safe and trusting therapeutic relationship.

It's therefore important that you find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable to be yourself.  

Powerful insight and change often happens as a result of a positive relationship between therapist and client.  This doesn't mean that your therapist won't challenge you or at times disagree with you; however, in order for this to happen effectively, there has to be a trusting relationship first.  The therapeutic relationship can be a great model for a healthy relationship.  Your therapist should be attentive and you should feel that they have your best interests at heart.   It may be a good idea to "interview" a few potential therapist candidates over the phone before making a decision about who is right for you.

The first step of the process should involve a thorough evaluation of your concerns and life history. Your therapist will collect factual information about you, including the nature of the problem that prompted you to seek help, a history of past and present emotional and psychological concerns, any medical issues and medications you're taking, and your past and present use of drugs and alcohol.  Your therapist should also ask about your family and social history.  This process is very comparable to first seeing a medical clinician, who gathers your medical history to arrive at a diagnosis and treatment plan.  After the information gathering process is completed, you and your therapist will design a plan for your therapy and establish realistic goals.

The therapy process depends on your therapist's theoretical orientation.

.  Nowadays, most therapy and counseling consists of a series of interactive conversations.  Most therapists will not present as cooly detached observers, but rather ask questions, make comments, and offer suggestions.  For example, as a therapist, I consider one of my main missions to help each client uncover the best answers and solutions that are uniquely right for them.

As a result of therapy and counseling, you should hopefully understand yourself better, have more positive feelings, and increase healthy behaviors. 

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