Oftentimes individuals come to counseling with the expectation that they will resolve all of their problems in record time. They want a quick fix and feel unmotivated and discouraged when they are not progressing as quickly as they believe they should. In our fast paced society where everything is available at our fingertips, we are used to being instantly gratified and struggle when change does not happen immediately. The problem with this thinking is that the person has usually been dealing with the issue for some time before reaching out to a counselor, and when they finally get in to see one they are wanting immediate relief. As counselors, we get that, and at times we even wished we had our own magic wand to make you feel better instantaneously. Unfortunately that is not one of our specialties. So I often have to remind clients that their problems did not just appear overnight and may take work and effort to see change. So before you start asking your therapist “Are We There Yet?” have some realistic expectation when you enter into counseling.
1. Commit to the process. Recognize that counseling is a process that takes time to effect meaningful change. Just like they say it takes 21 days to break a habit, recognize that counseling is also going to take some time to effectively reframe maladaptive behaviors and cognitions. So be willing to commit to 4 to 6 sessions over a month or two to evaluate progress and improvements.
2. Do the work in-between sessions. In order to consistently make progress and improvements in areas of focus, it is important to be committed to doing the work in-between sessions. Some counselors will assign homework or other tasks to be completed before your next session. It is important to complete the work assigned. Counselors recognize that you won’t be in counseling forever, so those assignments are ways for you to be prepared to implement change even when you are not in our office.
3. Define your goals. Clients often present to counseling very overwhelmed and filled with unspoken concerns that they have not been able to address with anyone. So their first couple of sessions can be nothing but dumping everything they have been keeping inside. But then, where do you go? Think about your goals prior to coming to counseling so you can identify them with your counselor. Have a discussion about your goals and evaluate your progress throughout.
4. Stay motivated. It is easy to get discouraged and lose motivation if you are feeling that you are not making progress. When that is happening, talk to your counselor. Oftentimes, clients don’t recognize the progress they are making and it takes a discussion with your counselor for you to be reminded about the improvements made. As your counselor, we want you to resolve the challenges you are facing and recognize how far you have come. We want you to be motivated for change and live your best life.