Taking Stock: When to Try Counselling?
The decision to try counselling can be an instantaneous choice or a slow burn over many years. And of course, some folks never choose counselling, and that’s valid too.
But for those who do, making the choice to try counselling, especially for the first time, can be a little daunting, and it’s common to wonder whether the timing is right, or whether we should continue to hold out.
Let’s break this down, as there are a number of components that can influence the choice to proceed with therapy.
A Sense of Readiness
What is a sense of readiness? This is an individual thing. Sometimes it’s described as a choice that “just feels right,” or a sense of certainty, or even a sense of urgency. Sometimes folks will say it’s a feeling that has grown over time, when previously they did not feel ready. Other people talk about having an internal “threshold” or “set point” for when they access counselling.
The Issues At Hand
Issues which bring people to counselling can be longstanding or recent, urgent or not, but generally always important. Oftentimes the issues feel out of our scope, or are concerns that we’ve been bravely trying to manage alone but then realizing that we’ve hit our limit.
Almost any issue can be a topic for counselling, the most common being:
- Relationship concerns/breakdown
- Family issues
- Grief and loss
- Low self-worth
- Major life events and life transitions
This list, however is not by any means exhaustive; it is part of the vast range of complex issues that we as people experience which, in turn, makes us human.
Need For Support
This can be a general need for support, a need for enhanced support in a person’s existing support system, or a desire for specialized support. Many new counselling clients express concerns that they have “burned out” their friends and are seeking someone that they can talk to without guilt. Others may have suffered a sudden loss of support, such as the end of a primary relationship, the loss of a loved one, or geographic move where a support network has been left behind.
Going without support, or withdrawing from support (a common scenario when we have trauma in our backgrounds) limits or removes us from the experience of connecting with others—a fundamental human need. Sometimes seeing a therapist feels like a safer first step towards establishing or re-establishing a support system.
I have noticed a pattern over my years counselling: many people try valiantly to solve their own problems, often pushing themselves to the emotional brink before seeking help. It doesn’t have to be this way. Dedicating this amount of effort to self-management is, from one angle, impressive, although sometimes it’s related to a fear of asking for help and can delve into the realm of self-harm or self-punishment if we’re not careful. Frustration, however, can change from slave to master when it becomes a catalyst for change.
Out of Ideas
Similar to frustration, sometimes we feel like we’ve “hit the wall” when it comes to new ideas and we find ourselves stuck in a rut. We may choose counselling for help in generating new options, ideas and perspective.
Sometimes new ideas are just not enough; we may call a counsellor for their years of experience with our concerns. The counsellor may also have specialized training in the area, or experiencing with a particular therapy that you are looking for. The search for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or EMDR are common examples.
Counselling is expensive. For some, there has been a financial shift allowing for the start of therapy, or folks may now have an extended benefits plan through work which covers it. Alternatively, the interested counselling client may have finally secured counselling at a lower-cost counselling agency.
Sometimes life circumstances are right to make counselling, at this particular time, a do-able thing. The stars are in alignment. For example, you may get off of work early one day a week, creating a space in your schedule, or, childcare falls into place, or the counsellor you have selected has a schedule that matches well with yours. More generally, counselling may seem like a realistic option when previously you had too many conflicting priorities.
And if you’re still not sure, take advantage of any free counselling consultations, with counsellors you’re considering. This is a great time to ask questions about your specific needs and to help you determine if it’s a good therapy fit.
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