“Faith in oneself is the best and safest course”
Engaging in counseling has the potential to be a time of tremendous personal growth and a time of healing. It is not, however, a switch that is flipped and you find “happiness.” Experiencing results in counseling takes time and commitment to allow the process to unfold.
There is an arc to counseling that often resembles a bell curve. There is an initial period of introduction and relationship building. During the introduction phase the counselor and the client(s), whether you are seeing a counselor as an individual or a couple, begin building a trusting therapeutic relationship. The counselor learns the client’s story and begins to help the client(s) identify issues and challenges. Equally important, the introduction phase is the client’s opportunity to get to know the counselor. During this time, the client(s) determines if the counselor is the right “fit” addressing questions such as: Does the client feel comfortable talking to the counselor? Does the counselor have the skills and knowledge to help them? Does the client have confidence in the counselor? Not every counselor is the right fit for every client.
There are numerous methods and theories that are practiced by trained counselors. As a client you have rights which the counselor should review with you. For example, you have the right to ask the counselor what methods they use in counseling and to ask about their credentials and training. You have a right to refuse a counseling technique; you have a right to discontinue services at any time. You may refuse any services that you do not want. You can expect to receive treatment that is beneficial to you and respects your values.
As the therapeutic relationship develops, sessions move into the working phase of counseling. During this phase the counselor works with the client(s) to identify their feelings, emotions, experiences that have brought them to counseling. Counselors generally do not give advice. Counselors are trained specialist in listening and connecting with clients to assist clients in identifying their own solutions. No one knows you better than you know yourself.
During the introduction and working phases of counseling, the greatest growth potential results come from consistency in attending sessions and engaging in work outside of the counseling room. It is typical for clients to attend counseling sessions weekly during this phase of counseling. It is not uncommon for issues of past life experiences, which the client may initially feel are unrelated to their current issues, to surface during this phase of counseling. As a counselor, and an objective listener, I look for common threads of experiences as client’s tell their stories. Often these common threads, woven throughout the client’s life, can help a client gain insight.
The final stage of counseling is sometimes referred to as the maintenance phase. Often times the issues and concerns that brought the client to counseling have been clarified, processed, resolved or healing begins. As the counseling process moves into the maintenance phase, the time between counseling sessions is extended. Counseling sessions are scheduled once every few weeks, once a month or when the client needs to consult the counselor.
The advantage of having a counselor that knows you and that you are comfortable and familiar with is that when an issue arises, which they invariably do, you do not have to repeat the introductory phase.
Areas of Focus
*The word “trauma” is used to describe experiences or situations that are emotionally painful and distressing, and that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, leaving them feeling powerless. Trauma has been defined as an event that is outside normal human experience. Particular forms of trauma, such as intentional violence or witnessing violence, sustained discrimination, poverty, and persistent chaotic life conditions are directly related to chronic fear and anxiety, with serious long-term effects on a person’s health.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a diagnosable mental health condition defined by the DSM. The DSM-5 is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States. It contains a listing of diagnostic criteria for every psychiatric disorder recognized by the U.S. healthcare system and has specific criteria which must be satisfied to be diagnosed. PTSD is developed by suffering a traumatic event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event
Trauma is relative to the person. What may only be a slight disturbance to one person can be devastating to another’s person life. There can be a tremendous amount of self-blame and shame associated with trauma. You do not have to feel ashamed or embarrassed about experiencing trauma.
Symptoms associated with Trauma include:
Denial and disbelief of the circumstances
Extreme anger, irritability, anxiety and fear
Tremendous guilt, shame and self-blame
Withdrawing from family and friends
Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
I have completed the Level 1 Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy and I use the Gottman Method Couples Therapy in my work with couples. The founders, John and Julie Gottman, have studied and worked with couples for more than thirty years. The assessments, theories and practical approaches utilized by the Gottmans are supported by years of analytical and evidenced-based research. If you are interested in learning more about the Gottman approach follow this link to the Gottman Institute home page https://www.gottman.com/.
Engaging in pre-marriage counseling can be very helpful in getting your new union off to a great start. In pre-marriage counseling you will learn what makes a great relationship work. The Gottman’s have studied thousands of couples over more than thirty years and have identified traits of “Master Couples.” Couples that continue to love and cherish one another over a life time. In pre-marriage counseling you will learn how to recognize and the importance of a “bid” for attention; you will learn the importance of “turning toward” rather than away from your partner, and you will learn how to use “soft startups” to facilitate communication. You deserve to give your partnership the best possible chance of success. Contact me to learn more about pre-marriage counseling.