Friday, September 25, 2015

Tips for Starting Counseling

Hello Loves,

I'm not good at sharing things. But this month is Suicide Prevention Month (I will write about this later) so I decided that some tips would be helpful! Some things I find to be very personal to even share with my close friends. Last year was particularly hard for me when a friend suggested going to the counseling center. I saw a therapist for the rest of the year (might start again this year, we'll see). Therapy was an incredibly healing and helpful process for me; it helped me come to terms with my struggles and learn how to move forward in a positive way. While it is a helpful process, it can be very difficult, especially with all the stigma attached to counseling. Its hard to know what to expect, I know that was the most nerve wracking part for me.

I know many people consider counseling to be necessary if something truly horrible is happening in your life, but I really believe that we can all benefit from having someone listen to us. Like my counselor said "it is the one hour a week where it's all about you, about what you want to talk about, about what you want to do. Its hard to get that regularly." That is why I always advise people to try counseling, at least once.

I know many people consider counseling, but are nervous to start, I thought I'd share some tips and information here. This is a very personal and individual journey, so you might experience different feelings and emotions. Please remember I am not a profession; these are just tips and information I've picked up along the way. If you have any questions or concerns or want more opinions, please talk to a doctor or a licensed professional!

one//Its nothing to be ashamed of
Please know that if you are considering counseling that it is nothing to be ashamed of. I would not be where I am today if it weren't for the guidance and skills I got from my counselor. Asking for help is, also, nothing to feel bad about! It just means you've recognized that you could benefit from someone to listen to and to help you. The courage and strength in making that decision is something to be proud of. 

two//Going to a counselor does not make you crazy or weak
In fact, it means the opposite. It means you are strong and brave enough to identify that you need help. Every one has their own struggles, many of which can be helped through counseling. You should be commended for seeking help, especially if you are nervous or anxious about it. We all have burdens; its the strongest among us that ask for help.

three//It can be incredibly helpful and healing
You don't realize you are healing and moving forward until you look back and see how far you've come. I must say that I owe counseling for the hardest parts of my healing. I would not be where I am if it weren't for my counselor! If you are considering it, I could not recommend it enough!!! It can be helpful no matter what your difficulties are, they not necessarily have to be severe. Everyone is carrying something. If you are considering it, even for something "small", give it a go. It can be helpful, if not you can always stop.

four//Do it for you
Don't do therapy for me, your parents, your best friend, or anyone else. Do it only if you want to, and if you think this is the right step for your health. I'm not going to lie I started going because my best friend basically forced me to go, but I kept going because I wanted to. As hard as it may be, it'll only work if you want to put in the work. If you are unsure about counseling, talk to some you trust- a parent, friend, teacher, doctor, sibling, etc. They may be able to encourage you or even offer to go to the office with you so you're not alone (my friend and I did this for each other). Seeking counseling is a very personal choice and can be hard to talk about with other people, but sometimes it can really help if you talk to someone you are close with. If you can't find someone there are many hotlines, text lines, and chat resources available. Check out the resource section to learn more.

one//Not all counselors are the same and it's okay if it's not the right fit
Counselors are people too, and just like regular people there's some that you just won't click with. Give it a little time, sometimes you need to warm up to each other before you click, other times you know instantly; give it time and trust your instincts. This is perfectly normal! Don't give up, keep looking for a counselor that you will click with. It will make a world of difference.

two//Your counselor will not judge you
Your counselor is there to help not judge. They are trained to be there for you and to support you, no matter what you need to get off your chest. They've also heard everything under the sun so don't worry about offending or shocking them. Try not to be concerned with that they may or may not be thinking, their job is to be there to help & listen to you.

three//It's all about you
When I first started counseling, I thought she would ask me questions then diagnose me and tell me what to do; I was so wrong!! I didn't realize that I would be the one making most of the suggestions and connections. She just guided me places, but I was the one making the insights on my life.

four// Try to be open
One of the best ways to get the most out of therapy is being open with your counselor. This can be difficult, especially if you are not used to sharing these parts of your life. Give it a try!! As the saying goes "sometimes you just need 30 seconds of insane bravery to change your life," bravely say something open and you never know how much it can truly help. It can help to think of what you want to say beforehand.

five//It may get worse before it gets better
Have you ever tackled cleaning a really messy room? as you open drawers and dump out your closet, it always gets messier before its clean again. Same is true for therapy, in the early sessions it may feel like things are only getting more difficult. Part of this is because you have have been "storing away" your thought and feelings in the past, rather than dealing with them up-front. When you start "unpacking" those feelings, it can be a lot to handle! That doesn't mean it won't get better. Sometimes this can cycle: with some very good days and some very tough days and that is normal, but if you consistently leave therapy feeling worse than when you walked in even after several months, you may want to consider a different therapist.

six//Share and say anything that comes to mind
As I said before, don't worry that something you are feeling or thinking is not relevant or important enough to bring up in therapy. Remember it is all about you and your counselor is there to help you. Anything you are feeling or thinking is fair game. Bring it up; you may be surprised at the connections you make!

For Teens:
- Where to start: A great place to start is with your doctor or school guidance counselor. If you trust your doctor, ask him/her for recommendations within your insurance network. Your guidance counselor may be able to talk to you and help you. If you are not comfortable with your guidance counselor go to a trusted teacher.
-Free, anonymous resources for teens: There are many options for free counseling for teens such as Youthline (teens helping teens over call and text), Crisis Text Line (just over text), and Teen Line (call and text).
-If you don't have insurance: Try talking to your school's guidance counselor and seeing if there are any free counseling resources in your town, or any resources your counselor can suggest. Researching group therapy groups can be a good way to get help without paying.
- Internationally: If you live outside the US please scroll down to the bottom of this post of links and resources.
In College:
- College counseling center: Most colleges have counseling centers with therapists and trained social workers who are willing to work with you. These are often free, or at a low cost. I would HIGHLY suggest going to your counseling center first!
- Off-campus: If you do not have a counseling center or live off-campus, talk to your college doctor for a reference to a therapist in your insurance network.
- Free resources: If you do not have insurance, scroll down below for online and call-counseling resources that are free of charge.

Out of college:
- Where to start: Again, a great place to start is by talking to your doctor and getting a recommendation for someone within your network. You can always ask a friend that sees a therapist if they recommend anyone.
-Finding someone online: If you feel uncomfortable asking your doctor or a friend, there are many good websites that facilitate finding therapists, such as Good Therapy. They have advanced and international search options. You can also find support groups or group therapy online.
-Resources through your job: Some companies offer an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) that allows for free or low-cost counseling. Learn more here.

Low-cost and free counseling:
- Low-cost therapist: The Health Resources and Services Administration offers low-cost and free counseling at many federally funded counseling centers. Find one here.
- Free resources: If you do not have insurance, scroll down for free online and call-counseling resources.
-Care for Your Mind has a great resource sheet on what to do if you can't afford therapy. Read it Here.

Free International Resources:
- For a list of specific free hotlines and chat services by condition or issue, such as eating disorders, sexual assault, or veteran's issues, click here.
-For a list of UK hotlines and resources, click here.
-For international help hotlines by country, click here.
-For free, online cognitive therapy. click here 

Just a reminder, these are just my research and personal experience tips. I am not a licensed professional; please talk to a doctor, parent or guardian, or professional if you feel you need help. There are resources available for you, no matter what your circumstance. 

Best of Luck
Stay Safe