How to Get the Most from Your Counseling Experience

You're in counseling; now what? Although every counseling experience is different, these guidelines will help you to make the most of counseling.

Define your goals. Talk with your counselor about what you want to accomplish in counseling. Together you can work out a plan to address your concerns and be sure that your counseling stays on track.

Make counseling a priority. Commit to attending your appointments and to being on time for them. If you find yourself skipping sessions or arriving late, talk with your counselor about what might be going on. Are you avoiding painful topics? Is there something about counseling that feels uncomfortable? Do you truly have the space, time, or energy for counseling right now?

Share your feelings. It is natural to be reserved when you're feeling uncertain. But if you find yourself uncomfortable with counseling or frequently holding back in your sessions, talk about these feelings with your counselor. Together you can work on whatever issues are getting in the way. Though this may be uncomfortable at first, in the long run this will make your counseling much more effective.

Be active outside of sessions. Counseling requires active work in and out of sessions. Set aside time to think about what you experience and learn in your sessions. Consider keeping a journal or talking about these experiences with a trusted friend. Try to apply what you're learning and then talk with your counselor about how this is going.

Give yourself a break. You may feel that you shouldn't be in counseling or that your problems are small compared to those of others. You may even feel anxious or guilty about being in counseling. Remember that your problems are as real as anyone else's and that they don't need to be catastrophic for you to benefit from counseling. In fact, counseling is most helpful if you start before your problems get out of hand.