THE COUNSELING EXPERIENCE: A Run Down of What to Expect
By: JUSTIN MAKIN, ACMHC
INTRODUCING BEAR CREEK
Bear Creek Recovery is an adult mental health agency located in Orem, Utah. Our office is situated right at the base of the canyon, conveniently located with ease of access.
We specialize in treating adults and work with married couples as well. Since COVID, mental health has been pushed to the forefront. This is a blessing and curse as services are harder to get into with wait lists and limited providers taking insurance plans.
Bear Creek accepts insurance and wants to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to get the help they need. Opening up to a stranger can be daunting and, especially for first timers, it’s an unknown that often keeps people from scheduling.
THE BREAK DOWN
We wanted to write a blog to let you know what to expect. Sometimes when things are broken down into bite size pieces, they are a bit easier to swallow. Step one is finding a provider that you feel is compatible with your needs and when you read their profile, you believe you would feel comfortable sitting on their couch.
It’s important to ensure your values align and that they offer speciality services that you are seeking. Sometimes, this is also an unknown. Perhaps a loved one has told you to schedule. Or, things are unraveling a bit personally, whether at work, falling behind in school or strained relationships.
Once you narrow your choices down, start calling. Some agencies, like Bear Creek, offer texting to schedule appointments. This can be a bit less intimidating. Shooting a text can feel like ripping off a bandaid, but it’s a massive step to see the wounds that need healing.
YouTube, Reddit, TikTok and other resources offer great advice. And many counselors have channels and podcasts. That being said, nothing is like sitting on the couch with your own personal counselor. A counselor that remembers the names of your loved ones. A counselor that asks questions about your life that matter and you can tell that they genuinely love what they do. You may leave their office with strong emotions, but it feels like growth.
If we compare counseling to the gym, it may too be painful. Gyms leave your body in physical pain where counseling, emotional. Processing may last hours or even days, but just like the gym, you’ll get stronger and pretty soon you’ll be running on the treadmill with the first day long behind you.
Not feeling emotional strain is like going to the gym and “lifting” with a pool noodle. With no resistance, there’s no growth. Counselors offer just enough resistance that you don’t pull a muscle. It’s encouraged to listen to your body always, like in yoga, and don’t overdo things.
PURPOSE OF COUNSELING
Counseling is designed to help organize thinking, identify trauma, set up healthy boundaries with self and others and heal from various types of grief. This is a big step to choose someone to help walk you through these things. Communicating with an agency is very telling. Is the front office staff friendly? Do they take the time to answer questions in a timely manner? If they can’t help you, do they point you to someone who can? All important questions.
Once you choose, and find someone who accepts your insurance, you schedule your first appointment. Much blood, sweat and tears has led to this moment. It’s a big deal. Massive deal. Not to be taken lightly. Feelings of anxiety, fear and apprehension may arise. Embrace these feelings and turn to supportive loved ones who will validate your experience and encourage you to get the help you need.
And finally, you meet your therapist. You’re greeted (most of the time as some counseling offices just have a place to wait) and you have a seat. Hopefully there’s a comfortable atmosphere, water and a snack to help you feel at ease. Then the moment arises, your counselor comes around the corner and calls your name.
You go into their office and have a seat on their couch. You look your therapist up and down and wait. Wait for them to lead the session. It’s the therapist’s job to help break the ice, create comfort and allow you to feel heard.
If all goes well, you reschedule. Most counselors set ongoing appointments that are weekly, no-weekly or monthly. Usually the new client and counselor work together to figure out what feels like enough. The schedule can change over time, as the job of the client and counselor is to terminate their relationship once the work is done.
A relationship with a counselor is very unique to any other. It’s different than a dentist, doctor or any other professional. Clients and licensed counselors cannot have dual relationships. What this means is that the counselor relationship can only be one relationship, that of a counselor.
Counselors can’t be friends. No other titles, just counselor and client. This helps clients feel safe as they are often disclosing private and confidential information. This is what makes the relationship unique and it’s intentional.
Counselors have a specific skill set of healing. Due to this, it’s different than calling a loved one, sitting down with a Rabbi or googling. But the bottom line, the relationship is set up like this to protect the client. It’s very important for clients to feel safe while in session to heal and ultimately get the help they need.
Bottom line: the last day should be much better than the first day. Healing takes time, but it’s possible!