Effective counseling is a two way street. It takes a cooperative effort by both the person receiving counseling and the counselor. And it takes a commitment to make sometimes difficult changes in behavior or thinking patterns.
What you expect to achieve with your counselor should be clearly defined as you begin your counseling. You and your counselor should discuss realistic time frames for reaching your goals and agree on how you will measure your progress.
It’s important that you and your counselor establish a good relationship that allows you to be completely honest about your thoughts and feelings. Often, this requires an elusive “chemistry” between both of you in which you feel comfortable with your counselor’s personality, approach and style. If after the first few sessions you don’t feel this chemistry, look for another counselor with whom you feel more comfortable.
Once you think you’ve found the right counselor, how do you tell if your relationship is effective? Here are some signs to look for:
While you are responsible for making changes in your life, an effective counselor can help pinpoint the obstacles in your way. If you have control over these obstacles, a counselor can suggest behavioral changes to help you overcome them. If these obstacles involve factors outside of your control, your counselor can teach you coping mechanisms that will foster your well being in trying circumstances.
An effective counselor can identify negative thinking patterns that may be feeding feelings of sadness, depression or anxiety. By encouraging you to build upon personal strengths and suggesting skills that can overcome self-inflicted feelings of hopelessness, a counselor can help you develop a more positive attitude.
A good counselor can assist you in making positive changes in your relationships with others, helping you recognize behaviors that may be contributing to a troublesome relationship. Your counselor can teach you effective ways of communicating, clearing the way for honest exchanges with people in your life who may be causing you emotional pain.
You can determine whether your work with your counselor is effective if you begin to obtain insights about your own thoughts and behaviors that may have eluded you before. Over time, you should be able to recognize patterns in the way you act, trace their sources and identify stumbling blocks to your happiness that you may have unwittingly created. The end result is personal growth that empowers you to control your life and enjoy positive, life-affirming relationships with others.