I often get asked how counseling works. Most people have little exposure to therapy or mental health services except through what they have seen on television which usually greatly exagerates or even stigmatizes people who receive mental health services. In a nutshell counseling/therapy should be supportive, goal focused, nonjudgmental and insightful.
Mental health treatment comes in a variety of forms. The most frequented method is treatment from your primary care medical provider. They often are the first individuals that help a person get treatment, and as such, often make referrals to therapists or start the individual on medication.
There a variety of mental health professionals. These include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists and licensed professional counselors. All can do therapy, though psychiatrists rarely do and usually solely focus on medications. Psychologists provide both therapy and testing to determine types and severity of disorder (such as testing for ADHD). For most clients testing is not necessary. I am a clinical social worker with experience performing therapy services for the past eleven years.
The main difference between the way a psychologist approaches counseling and how a social worker approaches counseling is that social workers tend to focus on a person in the environment approach, whereas psychologists usually focus on the function of the brain and pathology. The reason I chose social work as a profession was because I was drawn to the premise that mental health issues can be navigated through adjustments in the persons environment rather than viewing the person as defective in some way. Both social workers and psychologists are excellent resources, though each have slightly different approaches.
It is important to get the right fit with your therapist. Give it a few sessions, and if it still feels awkward try to talk about how you feel openly in session. If you still can't click with the therapist it is ok to try to see someone else! Any good therapist is solely focused on you getting what you need within the boundaries of confidentiality and ethics!
Now, how do you know if you need counseling? A good place to start is to take stock of how you are feeling and how long you have been feeling that way. If your issues have lasted for more than two to four weeks it is typically a sign that something is not right. Assess how you feel. Is it different than normal? Do you feel depressed, anxious, frustrated? Have your sleep patterns changed? Have your activity levels been different in the past few weeks? Has your appetite changed? What do people close to you say about your mood or how you appear? Are you isolating yourself from others? These are often typical signs that you may need more than a good nap, chocolate, or a movie day.
Deciding to get help is the most difficult step. The sooner you reach out for support with a counselor the sooner you will start to feel better! Most, if not all clients I have seen for therapy, when initially reluctant or completely new to therapy, end up enjoying and learning from the counseling experience!
Call Sutter Compass Therapy or another therapy provider if you need that support!
Stay tuned for further posts!