February 26, 2014

How to maximize your counseling experience

I found these ideas help me during and after a counseling session:

Take a pen and paper to take notes

Be willing to interrupt if your counselor gets off topic, or you have a more pressing matter to discuss

You can accept or reject advice according to your needs

Tell the whole story, but as briefly as you can

Be honest

Work on what your counselor asks you to do after you leave

5 Considerations to Choosing a Counselor

"Listening Ear" by Vera Kratochvil
Choosing a counselor is an important step to actively treating mental health. They are professionals who provide a listening ear and have expert advice to guide you to better mental health.

The Right Type of Counselor

First, choose a counselor that fits the type of help you need--marriage, addiction, adolescent, etc. Therapists may be general therapists, but most concentrate on specific areas. Specialist therapists have more experience and can better guide you for the specific problem you are facing.

Be Challenged

Second, a counselor should challenge you to improve. Some counselors will merely coddle you to stay in your rut. What good does it do if you keep repeating the same mistake? This doesn't lead to happiness--only complacency and depression. Also, a good counselor understands he or she does not always have the full picture, only your point of view of anything you share.

Respects Your Beliefs

Third, choose a counselor who respects your belief system. The counselor doesn't have to believe as you do in order to help you within your belief system, just respect it. A counselor is wise to challenge unhealthy cultural patterns related to a belief system. For example, in my belief system there is a cultural tendency toward perfectionism, but the actual religion does not endorse beating myself up over mistakes.


Fourth, consider your finances. It will affect who you can choose or the number of sessions. If you are limited to a certain counselor, apply what you can. Some organizations and churches offer free counseling or help pay for sessions. Many counselors consider payment plans or reduce rates if you pay upfront. If you can't afford that, I suggest free groups to attend, such as Recovery Inc or NAMI. Create a support network of family and friends. Mental Health Matters lists other ideas for resources in this article.

Use Spiritual Guidance

Heavenly Father wants help you through the challenges of life. He has given us others, such as counselors, to help us along the way. Pray for his guidance as you choose a counselor who best fits your needs. After all, God is the wisest counselor of all. His Son has experienced our suffering and can ease our burdens. We are not alone.

(See Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk for more about religion and mental illness.)

Is there any other considerations to choosing a counselor that you might add?

Act and don't be acted upon

My sister and I talked this morning about taking control for our own lives despite being a victim. Everyone has been a victim at some time, whether it be from a horrific or minor situation, but we can't remain a victim.

My mom talks frequently about a roadshow youth activity she had as a teenager. She learned to act instead of being acted upon.

I look at my mental illness and I try to remember to act, instead of being acted upon, by caring for my body, spirit, and mind to prevent episodes. When I keep up with this, I have fewer problems.

See 2 Nephi 2:26.