What Happens in Counseling?
Because you will be putting a good deal of time, money, and energy into therapy, you should choose a therapist carefully. We strongly believe you should feel comfortable with the therapist you choose, and hopeful about the therapy. When you feel this way, therapy is more likely to be very helpful to you.
Goals of Counseling
Most therapists have two primary goals when working with clients. First, we want to help you understand yourself better. When you are able to understand what you do that helps and hurts you, it is then easier to make changes in your life. Secondly, it is our job to give you the tools you need to create the life that you want. Together, achieving these goals can make a big difference in how happy and satisfied you are with your life.
What Happens During a Counseling Session?
During counseling session, you will bring up whatever is on your mind and what is happening in your life. Depending on what you bring up, you and your therapist may try to find times in your life where you had a similar set of thoughts and feelings and the lessons you learned. Or, you may try to figure out any additional thoughts or feelings you may have about what is happening. You may talk about other issues in your current life that may impact your feelings and thoughts about this particular situation, or your therapist may ask questions to try and really understand and “step into your shoes” about the situation. These are common things that happen during counseling, but your therapist may try something else. Please remember that at any time you can ask your therapist about why she or he did or said something or what the therapist’s goals are.
Will There Be Work Outside of the Session?
An important part of therapy is practicing new skills that you will learn. Your therapist may ask you to practice outside of your meetings, and may work with you to set up homework assignments. You may be asked to do exercises, keep records, and perhaps to do other tasks to deepen your learning. You may be asked to work on relationships in your life and make long-term efforts to get the best results. These are important parts of personal change. Change will sometimes be easy and quick and sometimes it will be slow and frustrating. There are no instant, painless cures and no “magic pills.” However, you can learn new ways of looking at your problems that will be very helpful for changing your feelings and reactions.
How Often Will We Meet? How Long Will Counseling Last?
Most therapists meet with their clients once a week for 3 to 4 months, though sometimes 2 times a week will be suggested by your therapist. After that, you and your therapist may decide to meet less often for another period of time or you may continue to meet every week for several more months. Counseling then usually comes to an end. The process of ending counseling, called “termination,” can be a very valuable part of your counseling. Stopping counseling should not be done casually, although either you or your therapist may decide to end at any time it if that would be in your best interest. If you wish to stop therapy, most therapists ask that you agree to meet for at least one more session to review your work together and plan for the future. You’ll review your goals, the progress you made in counseling, and make plans for continuing progress. You may also make a plan that will help you recognize when and how to get help in the future. If you would like to take a “time out” from therapy to use your new skills and knowledge on your own, discuss this with your therapist, who can often make “time-outs” even more helpful.
How Private is Counseling?
Therapists treat all the information you share with them with great care. It is your legal right that records about your counseling sessions will be kept private. That is why a therapist will ask you to sign a “release-of-records” form before he or she can talk about you or send records about you to anyone else. Therapist’s in California will not even reveal that you are receiving treatment from them.
In all but a few rare situations, your confidentiality (that is, your privacy) is protected by state law and by the rules of the counseling profession. Here are the most common cases in which confidentiality is not protected:
- If you make a serious threat to harm yourself or another person, the law requires your therapist to try and protect you and the person you have threatened. This usually means telling others about the threat. Your therapist cannot promise never to tell others about threats you make.
- If your therapist believes a child or a senior has been or is being abused or neglected, he or she is legally required to report this to the authorities.
Your Rights as a Client
You are an active participant in your therapy and you have rights. Know them!
Interviewing Your Therapist
When you come for counseling, you are buying a service to meet your individual needs. You need information to make the best choice.
Here are some questions you might want to ask a potential therapist...
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San Diego, CA 92103