I've had both good and bad experiences with counseling. I am grateful that my first experience was a positive one. If you haven't been to counseling before, you don't know what to expect. What makes a good or bad experience? Below I listed some of my experiences so you can look for any red flags as you go through counseling.
- They do not give you "homework" or an assignment to do before returning to see them. Task may include: read a certain book or article, write down some of your thoughts, etc.
- They spend too much time talking about themselves, or in a way that doesn't relate to your problem. Sometimes they will talk about their personal experiences that are similar to yours and it can be helpful. Sometimes they ramble on about nothing relevant and that is just wasting your time (and money). I know very little personal things about the best counselor I've ever had. Why is that, because they left their personal life out of our sessions.
- You address a problem you would like to discuss and they don't address it. Let's face it, you are in counseling to help YOU. You should be the counselors main focus and no matter how small or dumb it may seems, they should help you address whatever you would like to. I had one counselor who when I told them, "I am really struggling with this problem right now." They would change the subject and never talk about what I was struggling with.
- Going nowhere fast... Sometimes, especially if you go weeks or a month between visits, you might have to repeat some stuff. However, if you feel like it is going nowhere after several visits you may want to 1) bring it up with the counselor or 2) find something else. I once saw a counselor for 3 months, we made NO progress in that 3 months. It seemed like every week they would ask me the same mondaine questions, "Where are you from again?" "How many siblings do you have?" and on and on.
- Sometimes personalities don't mesh and that is okay. A good and understanding counselor should get this, it is nothing personal, they just aren't the right fit for you.
- Counseling takes times. In the experience I mentioned above, I saw a counselor for 3 months. At the end of those 3 MONTHS they told me we were "all done". The length of your counselor depends on lots of different things. There is no right or wrong amount of time. Counselors shouldn't be telling you, you are done. It is something you need to feel for yourself. Sometimes they might see you have resolved the problems that brought you to them and feel you have reach the end when in fact you don't feel ready/ have other things to discuss.
- If they give you an assignment, or want you to try something, but in your next session they don't discuss it. This is similar to going nowhere fast. What is the point of trying something (like a natural supplement, writing something down, reading something) and they never discuss the out come with you. However, they do see a lot of people and might forget the exact assignment they gave you. Bring it up and discuss it with them, but if you have to do that every single time bring that up with them as well as you might be going nowhere.
- They minimize your problems. Once when discussing my depression a counselor told me, "I have suffered from depression too. When (this personal event happened) and then (another trial they had)", To me, I felt like they were minimizing my depression.
- Another thing for me that I discovered is I feel like I need someone who pushes me to dig deeper. I had one counselor when I would start crying during a season for seemingly no reason, they didn't address it. I had another counselor who did. They had me really evaluate myself and figure out why/ what was bringing on those emotions. I made better progress with the one who did address my crying, they explored what was going on to make me cry and what deep emotions I had going on.