After you have found a professional that you feel might work for you, then you may begin treatment at your own pace and level of intensity. Counseling typically begins with an intake interview or evaluation of some kind where the individual to receive help comes in and the therapist will ask questions about your case. These questions help to form a better understanding of what is going on and where the client may be now, given the context of the situation. This information gathering can be detailed in order to more clearly formulate goals and potential plans that will come together in collaboration between the client and counselor. This initial session will be your introduction to your new Counselor. You will have time to ask questions yourself and discover what you need to know about this person. You can get-to-know each other in the confidential privacy of an office that is secure and protected from frequent intrusions by others. Frequent interruptions should not be expected here, if at all. It should be a calm and relaxed atmosphere where you can begin to feel safe talking about things that are important to you.
As the intake interview or evaluation unfolds, together, you and your chosen Counselor, can begin to outline what it might look like for you when things are better. Only you will truly know what feels right for you when you get there but outlining what you think wellness or resolution of the problem might look like will be a big start. An example of this idea for a person coming in that has been experiencing depressed mood for a long time could be: “when things are better I will have more energy, won’t feel fatigued all the time, will want to eat my favorite dish like I used to, will enjoy time out with friends, will be going to work regularly and will be enjoying time with family, rather than continuing the self-isolation that I’ve been doing for the last few months.”
Moving into the second and any following sessions an exchange of ideas, concepts, and substantial amounts of other information may begin to flow back and forth. As the two of you begin to talk, you will begin to find what works for you. You can always feel free to ask questions and most importantly, make your ideas and beliefs known to your professional, about what is taking place in session, and in your life. It could be that all of the information or experiences that are being presented to you are making good sense to you and you welcome them. On the other hand, if some of the experience is not working for you, you should feel free to bring up any concerns or suggestions to your Counselor for consideration. Your professional should welcome concerns or suggestions and should be open to your input, and to the direction that you would like to move in.
Often people wonder what really happens during a Counseling session. Typically, upon starting regular sessions (generally on a weekly basis), you will begin to make your case more understandable with specifics and details that help in forming an evolving plan. Starting with the clearest idea of your plan is helpful but as things come together the plan can shift and molt into a better and more comprehensive plan. Counseling is like building a bridge from one place to another, possibly crossing over to another side of or beyond a problem or point of stuckness. Building a bridge from where you are now to the place that you will outline (which makes sense to you regarding improvement), will be the overarching theme. The bridge can be built very simply or very complexly, as you are the architect of your own bridge. The Counselor can provide information, ideas, research, common practices, short cuts, support, and whatever you may need to design and build your bridge. Sessions can be cognitive where lots of talk will deal with how one thinks, acts and feels regarding what is going on. These three things are inter-related and when one changes the others may change as well. Sessions can be experiential in nature, where the client experiences things, feelings, movement, emotions, etc., in the course of uncovering ways to move forward in the case. As a bridge may have nuts and bolts in its construction; so to in sessions these aforementioned nuts and bolts of Counseling can assist in building your bridge to where you want to go.
At first, weekly sessions are very common in order to get moving in the right direction and possibly stop any stressful or undesirable, acute issues. As things begin to improve and you are beginning to find yourself stronger, more at ease, feeling better about what was going on; then sessions may shift to one every two weeks and then with more improvement, every three or four weeks. Once the situation has improved to your satisfaction, sessions may end with joint collaboration, focused on what may be a good idea for you. As you begin to live your life and move forward, on your own, autonomously, you may find that sessions are no longer necessary. Just remember that as your life unfolds and you are making progress, sometimes a return to Counseling now and then can be a wise move. Rather than allowing problems to accumulate again, possibly becoming unmanageable again; a proactive return for just a little help through a difficult spot can make all the difference. A good Counselor will help to build independence within you, and teach you that the final goal in all treatment, if at all possible, is to build autonomy in the client. Know that the life you are living is your life and you should be in charge of your decisions and direction. Counseling is meant to help you find yourself and teach you to move forward on your own, without constant intervention by others. As you feel more and more confident with yourself, you will find an amazing life awaiting you as you become empowered to direct your own destiny. Counseling is a means, when necessary, to help you move closer to forming your own destiny, autonomously.