Optimize Your Counseling Dollar
Have you been to a counselor lately? That’s OK…don’t answer out loud. But if you have, or are considering visiting one in the near future, and want to make sure you get the most for your money, this blog post will be of interest.
As a private practitioner, I see many different people with many different types of issues. What most of them have in common, however, is their anxiety about coming to talk to someone. You know, like me. A stranger they have never seen before to whom they are going to reveal their deepest darkest secrets. It’s enough to make anyone nervous. And what do most people do when they are nervous? They talk.
So what usually happens is that once they come into the office, and we sit down, they start talking and don’t stop. Now, that’s fine. We understand you need to get your story out, and we’ve been trained not to interrupt you. However, there is a downside to this that I think you should be aware of. Your counselor probably isn’t going to tell you this, but I will.
When you interrupt us or do not allow us to speak, you are interfering with the counseling process. Which means it will take longer. Which means it will cost you more money.
See, we’re trained listeners, but we’re also trained responders. And, in most cases, it is necessary to have a two-way conversation in order for therapy to be helpful. We can’t just listen to a 40 minute monologue and then respond to the entire thing in 5 minutes. We’re good; but we’re not that good. So what usually happens is we will respond generally to the entire theme of what you are saying, or respond in detail to the last thing you said. Either way, you are missing responses to all the detailed stuff in the middle. Not good. And then you get frustrated because you think we haven’t said much, that we are holding back. And it’s true, but not for the reason you think. It’s that you haven’t allowed us to respond in the way that feels natural to us. The way we were trained.
So, what can you do to improve the chances of success? Allow your counselor to speak. Don’t hold up your hand and tell them to wait until you make your next point. Tell your counselor your story, but allow him or her space to respond. And don’t wait until the last 5 minutes in the session to ask for feedback. We just can’t manage to give you meaningful feedback in such a limited frame. Yes, you are the customer, but you aren’t always right. It is in your own interest to help us help you.
In short, trust your counselor. Don’t try to control the session. We are highly trained and educated, and we’ve done this before. We know what we are doing. And if you don’t trust your counselor, discuss openly with him or her why that is and see if it can be addressed. If not, then find another counselor. The counseling relationship is too important for your success not to.