What about counseling? It makes a difference

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Have you ever had a problem or a crisis in your life-one so burdensome that you needed to talk to someone? Seemingly, the longer you live, it seems inevitable that you will have a problem requiring a listening, compassionate, and understanding ear.

Counseling is any relationship in which one person helps another person to better understand and solve a problem. Friends and relatives provide a type of counseling, as do clergy, academic advisors, teachers, and many others. However, professional counseling is done in a non-threatening environment by trained professionals with a broad range of experience in helping people work through many different situations. Professional counseling provides an opportunity for a person to express their feelings or to identify non-helpful patterns (e.g., "crisis" patterns). It can help someone to identify a problem, to grow, and to heal. Anyone can go to counseling (individuals, groups, couples, or families). Professional counseling is always conducted in a safe, supportive, collaborative, and non-judgmental environment.

What you can expect from your counselor? A counselor will listen to your concerns and help you address them more easily and effectively. Your counselor will be willing to openly discuss anything you wish to discuss. Expect your counselor to focus the session on you, and not on others. Because counselors have different beliefs about how people change, they differ on how much talking they do in sessions, whether they ask you to do "homework," and their focus of discussion. If you have any questions about what is going on, by all means ask. Counselors have no "magical" skills, and will be not solve your problems for you. Except under unusual circumstances, your counselor will maintain strict confidentiality about you, and will openly discuss this with you.

What is your responsibility in counseling? Your main responsibility in counseling is to attend your regularly scheduled sessions, talk about what is bothering you as openly and honestly as you can, and complete any tasks or "homework" assignments you may be asked to do. Most counseling will require you to try something new or a "different approach." Another thing your counselor will expect is for you to be willing to experiment and try things without jumping to conclusions. Also, it is important that you talk with your therapist about your expectations and needs from therapy. You may be entering therapy for the first time and not have a sense of what needs to happen other than feeling better. Your counselor wants your counseling to be successful, so be honest about your progress.

What are the common difficulties in counseling? One of the most difficult steps in counseling occurs before you even see a counselor for the first time. Deciding to seek counseling is the first step in change. Many of us enter therapy hoping for quick relief from the distress we are experiencing. We are aware that therapy is costing us a lot in terms of time, money, and energy and we want to see some immediate results, especially when we are in pain. Patience is a must, and in time you will see progress if you stick with your counseling sessions.

If you need someone to talk to or an objective ear to listen to your concerns, do not rule out professional counseling. Yes, it does require time, commitment and money. However, most insurance carriers offer some sort of behavioral health services. Therapy is different for everyone. Some therapy is short term (usually focusing on one issue and situation) and other therapy may be longer term (more than one or complex issues.) Remember, if you stay committed to your sessions, they may ultimately lead you to a more improved, healthy, and balanced life.

For more information on how to obtain professional counseling services, contact The National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Inc. at 202-637-8400 or visit www.ncba-aged.org.

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