If you’ve ever thought about getting counseling for the first time, you’re probably not exactly sure what it is. The definition for “counseling” in Merriam-Webster sounds formal, complicated, and actually, a little bit scary. Instead, I think of counseling as the conversing, chatting, or visiting that takes place between two or more individuals. And this is in fact, exactly what happens when a client comes to see me.
What Is Counseling?
Clients have come to see me for so many different things over the years that I cannot possibly give all the reasons. But some of the reasons have been stress, marital concerns, grieving a relationship, bipolar, or the difficulties of re-integrating into society upon returning from deployment, just to name a few. Regardless of the reason, it is almost always very difficult for a client to talk about it. Until a client knows the counselor, the client can’t be sure if the counselor can be trusted with very personal information. And I’m not talking about HIPAA concerns either, although that is very important. I’m talking about trusting the counselor to be non-judgmental and encouraging. I’m talking about trusting that the counselor will be able to help. When all is said and done, I’m talking about the relationship between the counselor and client. The relationship between the client and the counselor is far and away the biggest predictor of success for a client.
Depending upon what treatment modality is appropriate for the client and for the issue at hand, I tend to use one or more of four. These include short-term solution focused therapy, strength-based therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or psycho-education (more on these later.) Often these different modalities overlap and most of the time, the client won’t even notice that I’m using a particular modality. What the client does notice is that we are talking, we are chatting, and we are visiting.
How Does Counseling Help?
Some clients find that just being able to talk about a secret or concern is very freeing and lessens isolation. While this can be quite a relief, most clients want more. They want a different perspective and tools to deal with the issue. But most of all, they want hope. The following are the treatment modalities I most often use. But I always remember that the relationship I have with the client is much more predictive of success than the modality I use.
According to The Institute for Solution-Focused Therapy, short-term solution focused therapy “is future-focused, goal-directed, and focuses on solutions, rather than on the problems that brought clients to seek therapy.” Certainly, we talk about the problems in therapy, but we focus on solutions. This approach is appealing to many clients who are averse to staying in therapy for significant periods of time. You don’t have to!
Strength-based therapy, as the name implies, focuses on the strengths of the client rather than on weaknesses. This is not to say that weaknesses can’t be addressed. They can be. But the focus is on the strengths of the client. The counselor can help the client engage those strengths again to address his concerns.
The premise of cognitive behavioral therapy is that it is our irrational thoughts that lead us to depression and anxiety. When an event presents itself, we have our thoughts about that event. If our thoughts are irrational, we’ll experience depression and anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps us identify irrational thoughts and replace those thoughts with rational thoughts. As a result of more rational thinking, our depression and anxiety will diminish and perhaps totally disappear.
Psycho-education is the treatment modality I use with everyone. Sometimes clients just need a little bit of education to help them make informed decisions. This goes a long way to improve quality of life.
We’ve discussed only four of many different ways a client can be helped in therapy. Counseling approaches can be and should be tailored to meet the needs of each individual client. Having different treatment modalities at-hand makes it easier to help each individual to heal and thrive. If you are ready to take that first step, call me at 636-288-1997 to schedule an appointment.