This thought ran through Carrie’s* mind when her parents suggested she go to counseling to talk about some of the things taking place in her life. Carrie is a high school junior who is starting to feel the pressure about college choices next year. She has a good group of friends, earns good grades and participates in many extracurricular activities. When her parents made the suggestion, she immediately blurted out “Why would I want to go to counseling? I’m not crazy!”
Unfortunately, many people feel a lot like Carrie does. Maybe they have seen negative stereotypes of therapy portrayed in the media? Perhaps we think of therapy as a place where only depressed or suicidal people go? What we need to know is that counseling is for everyone!
Counseling has evolved over the years,, but always with the goal of increasing understanding and solving problems. Counseling can help people examine the ways they think, feel and/or behave and seek improvement. It provides us with an understanding of who we are and how we relate to people and the world around us. Sometimes counseling may look just like talking, which can actually do a lot of good!
Discussing problems with someone who cares and is non-judgmental can help relieve the emotional pressure caused by keeping our thoughts to ourselves. While support from family and friends is helpful, family and friends have to attend to one another, and the relationships involve a mutual exchange of listening and sharing. In counseling, the sole focus is on the client, and the therapist’s role is to dialogue about the client and utilize techniques that can be helpful. Having objective input often provides people with a new way of looking at their lives and promotes new ways to handle their problems.
Carrie’s parents explained they were proud of her and knew she was on a good path. They also felt she might benefit from talking to an objective person who could help her sort through her feelings and make a plan to start preparing for her future. After realizing she had been a bit stressed out and noticing it starting to take a toll, she concluded it wouldn’t hurt to reach out and gain some new perspective. Her family called Outreach and Carrie attended five sessions alone, and one with her parents. Carrie and her counselor agreed on the number of sessions. Sometimes one or two sessions is all a person needs to achieve clarity; other times it takes longer. Research shows counseling makes a difference, in problems large and small. Talking to a counselor before problems get out of control and lead to worsening symptoms is a good plan.
The therapist normalized how Carrie and her parents had been feeling and praised them for reaching out. Through a collaborative approach, Carrie learned more about time management, goal setting, communication and stress reduction to help her be more successful. She wrapped up her junior year and made plans to visit colleges over the summer. She and her parents knew they had made a good choice and that Carrie had developed good coping skills for the future.
*Carrie represents a typical Outreach client. Details do not correspond with any specific case. Outreach Teen and Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential agency that offers eaffordable, accessible and discreet counseling services and educational programs to youth and parents, all within a welcoming, supportive environment.