Counseling: Where to Start

“It is not about being fully healed and then starting your life, it is about embracing healing as a lifelong journey while allowing genuine connections to organically emerge along the way.”

Yung Pueblo
art by SarahxDesign

Cover art by SarahxDesign (@sarahxdesign)

Motivation for Change

In preparing for this post, I reached out to one of my best friends Rachel, who is a licensed marriage and family therapist associate to hear her opinions of how to start the counseling process for someone who is interested in services. She described that a good therapist assesses a client’s motivation for change within the initial or first few visits. “Motivation for change” refers to the client’s readiness for therapy or willingness to participate in conversations with the therapist. It’s hard to do therapy if the client sees no issue. In this case, it would be difficult to make and meet goals, and therapy would be a waste of time and resources. Treatment is a collaboration with the client and the therapist. The client sets goals that the therapist can guide and encourage. A good therapist can also help expand the bounds of your comfort zone while also providing a safe place to share. Before going to counseling, think about what goals you would want to achieve from counseling. My goals were that I wanted to better understand myself, create more meaningful connections with peers and dating relationships, and talk about loss and find healthier coping strategies.

Common barriers to therapy

There can be barriers to seeking out a counselor such as making time, believing common misconceptions, or continuing to avoid the problem that you need to address. Some common barriers to getting therapy is the misconception that the therapist will make you cry (maybe a realization or a moment will from time to time), fear that therapy is always an emotional overdrive experience (it is not always), fear of talking in detail about trauma or unpleasant life events, or fear of interrogation. Therapy is not just the therapist deep diving into your trauma or childhood. It can be like a coffee conversation or talking to a stranger about whatever you want or whatever is bothering you.

If you are a friend to someone you are concerned about regarding their mental health, you can voice those concerns kindly in private. Your friend may or may not be willing to hear your concerns or feel motivated to do something to get better. You cannot control if your friend seeks out therapy or not. It has to be a personal choice. Rachel mentioned to me that a person’s level of functioning has to be disturbed in order to seek help sometimes. Therapy does involve emotional risks such as peeling back layers of a situation or stripping down walls that might have taken years to build. Taking away unhealthy coping strategies or survival mentalities can be scary and feel like you’re free-falling. However, a good therapist builds healthy coping strategies and “safety net” experiences first before working with you through the hard feelings and experiences.

5 ways to find a counselor or support group

  1. Visit Psychologytoday.com to find a therapist online.
  2. Google Maps or search for a mental health clinic nearby. Research the therapists at that clinic to see if they have a specialty that you are interested in such as anxiety/depression, experience working with veterans, eating disorders, a psychological disorder that you have been diagnosed with or want to be evaluated for, or if the therapist is faith-based or not. (of course there are more search options, these are just a few)
  3. Check with your church if there is a support group that might address your needs such as grief share.
  4. Talk with your friends who have gone through counseling and ask if they would recommend their counselor/ clinic.
  5. Visit your university health center to make an appointment with a counselor for an initial evaluation if you are enrolled in college that semester.

I created 2 free printables to help keep your thoughts organized as you seek mental health services. Download here:

I hope this information is helpful! Let me know what has helped you start the counseling, or any tips in finding a counselor. Main thing– be consistent, show up, and be yourself. Also you are paying for a service and it is ok to shop around for a therapist, but allow yourself to be challenged and grow.

Petit à Petit,

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