As counselors, we recognize there is a rational fear for going and telling a stranger about your problems. Most of us have been in your seat at one time (and still seek help for ourselves!) and have felt this same fear. We also respect the skepticism with which you may enter our room. But in classifying what counseling is and is not, maybe this will help eliminate some fear and skepticism for you.
What counseling is NOT:
A time to judge
Judging does no one any good. In fact Matthew 7:1-2 tells us that if we judge, we will be judged in the same way that we judge others as well as used with the same measure. We, as counselors, have no desire to judge; we have a desire to help you make the changes necessary to live a healthier life. Therefore, if we are assessing something you are doing or saying, maybe addressing inconsistencies in behaviors, we are not judging. Because we care, we desire to present truth with grace to you for the sake of change.
Often clients come into our offices in extreme pain. Some of the first words we hear is “Just tell me what to do!” But that’s not our job nor is it helpful to the hurting. Many times people seeking relief from pain using defense mechanisms, not coping skills. The difference? Defense mechanisms are a natural response we have developed early in our lives. For instance, many of us avoid or numb our pain or discomfort at all costs. Our defense mechanisms are ways to help us survive. However, healthy coping skills allow us confidence in being able to tolerate difficult feelings and situations without avoiding or disconnecting. They enable us to ground ourselves, tolerate our feelings, and produce a positive belief system in which we can work. So, back to why we are not advice givers: that doesn’t produce coping skills for you. There is more power for you in knowing YOU overcame something with our own tools than just following advice.
When people are hurting due to another’s behavior or maybe marriage partners are trying to “prove” the behavior of another, it is common for the individual to seek a “reason” for the other person’s behavior or try to prove that the other person is lying, etc. However, we, as counselors, are not detectives. Our goal is not to create an interrogation room for anyone. We desire to create an environment full of truth and grace. Therefore, we may point out inconsistencies or observations we see, but we don’t interrogate. That defeats the trust, empathy, and unconditional positive regard we seek to have with our clients. We desire to develop an environment where a person can trust us enough to tell us the truth.
Magic answer/Magic cure all
I often tell clients, “You’re not responsible for what you don’t know, but once you’re given the knowledge, you’re responsible.” Counseling provides you tools to explore difficult life and personal issues, but it also requires you to be responsible to implement these tools. I use the analogy of being in Home Depot. You’re surrounded by tools, but unless you use them, whatever you are trying to build/fix won’t get built or fixed. Counseling is a 10/90 percent work environment. Counselors do 10 percent of the work, and clients do 90 percent. You have to determine whether you want to be responsible to do the work necessary for healing.
Next, what counseling IS:
A collaborative effort
No counselor can “make” you do what is necessary for your healing nor do we want to. We want to empower you to implement healthy coping skills which leads to change. We desire to work ourselves “out of a job” because you have found healing and met your goals. We deem that a success!
A hopeful connection
Counselors provide a nonjudgmental environment for you to research yourself. We allow you a place to ask the difficult questions as well as say the hard and scary things you’re feeling without you needing to worry about how another person may respond or feel. We help you to discover a connection to hope even in the midst of the hard and scary things.
As stated previously, counseling is not a cure-all or a magic answer. What we provide is a safe place for you to walk whatever journey you are on. We cannot, nor will we attempt, to take your journey from you. The journey you are on is yours and you are the only one who can walk it; however, we can be beside you as you walk through the pain and help you see the glimmers of healing you are seeking.
Often people worry that others will find out what they said in session. What you say to us is confidential with three exceptions: if you are a harm to yourself, someone else, or someone is harming you. We do not tell your mom, dad, friends, others or even your dog about what you said. If we feel others should know about a disclosure made, we will mention that to you and give you options for telling them or for us telling them together, but we will not tell them without your consent.
We desire counseling to be a place of healing for you. In knowing what counseling is and is not, maybe you will find peace in “sharing your burdens” with someone else. If you would like to schedule an appointment, contact our office (318-562-6903) or visit our website www.clintdaviscounseling.com.
Peri Reed, M.S., PLPC, Registered Play Therapy Trainee
Certification for trauma in children and adolescents