Why go to counseling?
Several million people in the U.S. receive treatment for various reasons each year.
Generally, people seek out counseling when they're having trouble managing their daily lives. Most people are able to manage their life with their current social support systems, but for some, the stress and anxiety of life can become overbearing.
Some seek counseling for past trauma. Some go to better understand how to best relieve stress and anxiety in their lives. Others go as a couple to improve relationships or marriages. Substance abuse is also another reason to seek counseling.
Many insurance providers will cover therapy, and some work places contract with therapists to offer free counseling services to their employees.
If you are uninsured or underinsured, there are resources available in Oklahoma. You can contact the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to find out what's available to you in the county where you live. Also, if you're a college student, many universities offer free or discounted counseling for their students and will bill your bursar account with a nonspecific health charge.
What happens when I go to counseling?
During your first visit, known usually as an intake assessment, you will be asked to fill out a few forms and then asked a series of questions. You might be asked about the reason you came in and what seems to be bothering you.
You likely will be provided a diagnosis and scheduled an appointment for a time that's most convenient for you.
Therapists are trained in a specific way of talking to people. The dialogue is different from talking with friends or families. It will be a discussion about you and will seek to find specific reasons you're experiencing difficulty in your daily life.
Does it hurt?
A counseling session doesn't generally cause actual physical pain, but you might go through several emotions when getting to the root of why you're in treatment. If you have suffered emotional traumas in your life that you haven't yet dealt with, your counselor might want to talk about those. This can be difficult, but the end result can be quite rewarding and help relieve you of your emotional pain.
What are the risk factors?
Sometimes the phrase “It gets worse before it gets better” is used to refer to counseling. Sometimes in the beginning of counseling, it can feel like counseling is only making things worse. This is because you're dealing with difficult subjects, things you might not necessarily want to talk about but that you know you need to talk about. Even though the beginning sessions can be difficult, your therapist can help you work through those difficult times to work past your personal traumas and stresses.
What's the recovery
Some people find that after six to 10 sessions, they're feeling better and more stable. Others find this relief after fewer sessions and others would like to attend more than 10 sessions. You and your counselor will determine what time frame works best for you. There isn't necessarily a specific time frame that works for everyone.
What's the follow-up?
After your first session, you and your counselor will determine when your next session should be. This will depend on your needs and the amount of time you have.
Most people who seek therapy do not stay in it for the rest of their lives but rather on an “as needed” basis.
Source: Paul Williams, program manager of adult and family outpatient services at NorthCare; National Institute for Mental Health.