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The Art of a Therapist

Do you want to see a counselor? Do you know what to expect? Are you still having second thoughts on walking into their office?

All of these questions might be ones you are asking yourself. Here are various aspects to expect when seeing a counselor and the importance of seeing a professional.

You’ve just started thinking you might need or want to go to see a counselor or someone has suggested you would benefit from seeing a counselor. Your world feels a little unbalanced, or you’ve just been through a traumatic event. Is therapy the right choice and whom do you choose to see? The process of decision-making can be a daunting one.

Following is a list of some of the benefits of entering a therapeutic partnership:

1. You will be telling your story to someone who doesn’t know you or have a preconceived notion of who you are and what you might be thinking. They can remain objective while you process and work through the issue until you are comfortable with the outcome.

2. In a counselor’s office an atmosphere of safety has been established by the professional you will be working with for you to tell your story. You will explore the issues that brought you to counseling in a non-judgmental milieu. Also, you will work together for a comfortable resolution or understanding of the issues that brought you to the counselor.

3. The counselor should be objective unlike a family member or friend who might think they know you and how you process. They will provide the space for you to explore without inserting their opinions about you or the direction they feel you should be going. For instance, you may be feeling conflicted about the direction your life is taking, your marriage feels empty and unfulfilling, your days are dark, and in the back of your mind you are secretly pining for a job with the airlines and want to finish pilot school. Some members of your family call this frivolous thinking and may suggest you “get your head on straight.” Your tribe might criticize your choice by listing all the great attributes of your “oh so dreamy husband.” In therapy, you might be validated for your current experience and work through not only the lack of fulfillment in your marriage but the pursuit of your dreams.

Spoiler Alert – You might even improve not only your relationship with yourself and others, you might also find yourself concurrently realizing your dreams.

4. Sometimes your personal journey and the emotions attached are too difficult for people closest to you to hold space for and it is best not to ruminate over and over with them for no other reason then it ultimately might not feel good for either party and could cause conflict. In therapy, you can explore with the space provided. A good therapist will provide that.

As you enter a therapeutic relationship there should be a professional quality about it. There should be guidelines set about what you should expect from a counselor. They should provide the basis for an ethical relationship where improper behavior should not exist. Policies of the office to include what happens if you have to cancel and what to expect as far as payment are outlined. The counselor will inform you what therapeutic modalities they incorporate in treatment. A formal disclosure form will be provided stating this and signatures in writing will signify a professional relationship has commenced. An explanation of your rights as a client (HIPPA) will also be provided.

Your relationship and anything you disclose in therapy should be considered confidential. You should be able to process anything you want in your journey of healing and transformation. Of course, the only time this would not be true is if you were to express that you were in danger of harming yourself or others. At that time, everything would be done to mediate the situation and that would mean disclosing this through the proper channels so that you could get the proper assistance. A therapeutic relationship should be professional. Any other relationship should not be part of the process.

Entering an office of the counselor for the first time can be intimidating, anxiety producing, exhilarating, or without feeling based on your own personal perceptions and experiences. The environment of the office would have an atmosphere that makes you feel safe and you will have an intuition if this is going to be a good fit for you. Developing a trusting relationship can happen in that first hour or it may take several sessions. Allow for the process and feel like you can communicate your experience in the client seat.

A description about transference and counter transference should be noted here. Transference by definition is the assignment of feelings and desires, including unconsciously repressed ones from childhood, toward the counselor. For instance, the client might assign motherly qualities to the counselor and act in that manner. In therapy, these feelings may arise and the therapist might address them for therapeutic purposes. This can actually aid in the healing process.

Counter transference, conversely, and by definition is the assignment of the counselor’s feelings toward a client resulting in an emotional entanglement with the client. It is upon the counselor to seek supervision for this and redirect you to someone else, as this will impede your own progress.

None of this is meant to dissuade you from seeking therapy, it is only meant to arm you with knowledge so that when you decide to take this step and enter into a therapeutic partnership you are ready to say, “I’m in!”

Liz Hartman, LPC

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