If you've made the decision to speak to someone who qualified to deal with a range of psychological issues, you've taken the first step to taking the proactive choice to take charge of whatever thoughts, behaviours or other issues causing you distress. But once you've found a suitable counsellor with experience addressing your specific issues, there are a number of ways you can get the best out of the sessions. No matter who you sit opposite, here's what to remember.
Know What You Want to Change
It might sound obvious but being able to pinpoint what it is that is causing you stress or anxiety is an important step to develop the best strategies to address the issue. For example, "I want to overcome my constant low self-esteem" is a great way to assist your counsellor in pinpointing the major area to focus on, so the sessions can be as helpful as possible. It's hard to take their advice if you don't know what you want to improve when you're finished.
Be an Active Participant & Communicate
Even if you're not sure how to express yourself succinctly, be open and understand some of the questions are designed to be challenging and you may not have the answer. However the more you can communicate and understand what is being asked, the more chance you'll get a better insight into your own thought process. The more you are willing to communicate and express specifically how you feel, think and which ways the issues manifest, the better a counsellor is able to provide the most specific assistance and guidance.
Focus on Skills to Address the Problem Rather than the Problem Itself
Counselling patients that experience the most success are those that shift their attention to seek advice on ways they can address their issues affecting them. A session will be the most worthwhile when practical and cognitive strategies to overcome relevant issues are discussed, rather than simply venting. Whether in the counsellor's chair or in day-to-day life, too much time repeating negative thought patterns only reinforces the problem itself, and does little to overcome or challenge these thoughts.
Set Realistic Expectations
Like anything that you want to change in your life, results take time and effort. That's why its important patients go into counselling sessions with patience and positivity. If you're convinced something is not going to be effective or a waste of time, it will usually become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Be prepared to commit to the treatment, including the exercises that are recommended outside of sessions even if it seems difficult or the results don't seem clear cut. If you are prepared to work with your counsellor and apply the strategies you'll most likely see results more quickly, but only over time will entrenched behaviour, thoughts and stressors be substantially changed.
Unfortunately those who believe a session may provide an instant answer or a 'grand plan' are often disappointed. Remember you may have setbacks, and progress is not always linear, but like anything remember that setback don't mean you haven't already come a long way.
Learn more by contacting resources like The ACT Centre.