Outreach: what does counseling look like?


As we head into the newness of spring, it is a great time to recommit to goals and priorities. If one of your goals has been to connect with a mental health counselor, but you’ve been putting it off because the process feels intimidating, we want to decrease any negative thoughts you might have by explaining how a typical counseling session works. This can also be useful information to review with your child if they are beginning therapy so they can better know what to expect.

At Outreach Teen & Family Services, we offer accessible care and connection at our centrally located office in Mt. Lebanon’s Uptown business district. Upon completion of the online intake form, our clinical director will contact you to learn more about your current needs to be certain Outreach is the right fit for the client’s concerns, and then match the client with one of our counselors.

Emily* was 15 when her parents helped her complete our intake form to consent to counseling. Matched with a counselor by our clinical director, she selected a day and time for in-person counseling that worked with her schedule. At the start of her first session, she confided in her counselor that she was nervous and didn’t know what to expect. Together, they discussed the ‘normal’ counseling process, client/counselor confidentiality and the limits to that confidentiality.

Halfway through the session, Emily was surprised at how easily she opened up to her counselor, who was warm, confident and genuinely interested in getting to know her. She felt comfortable in the office and with this caring, professional adult. Emily felt supported as she shared her challenging family experiences that were causing her to become depressed.

Emily started to look forward to her weekly counseling sessions. At times she laughed, while other times she felt emotional, especially when discussing the death of a loved one, a serious loss she had never shared with anyone outside her family. Through therapy, Emily learned that she must fully experience her emotions in order to heal.

By having a safe place to feel heard by her counselor, Emily has learned to use her voice and has increased her self-esteem, inspiring her to go after her goals in life and restoring relationships with her family members. While it didn’t happen overnight, she feels happier and more self-aware than she has ever felt before.

If anyone in your family is experiencing a decline in their mental health, Outreach can help. We offer a variety of services for children and young adults ages 5-21, along with their parents and families, including individual, group, family and parenting sessions.

Please note that Outreach does not offer crisis services or response and does not have evening and weekend on-call coverage. In an emergency, please go to your local emergency room or call RESOLVE at 1-888-796-8226.

*Name has been changed to protect confidentiality.

Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer programs to youth ages 5 to 21, parents and families in a welcoming environment. This column is partially underwritten by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.