Counseling: How can it help me?
I often hear clients say, especially in our first few sessions, that they never really knew what to talk about with a counselor or that they feared they wouldn’t have enough to say. Others share that they believed they “should” be able to work through their concerns or struggles “on my own.” Some share that they were taught that they should just “ignore” things that bothered them ⎯ and that they’d “go away.” And sometimes, shame or a fear of being judged keeps people from accessing the help they may need ⎯ and that may improve their lives. Here are just a few of the concerns that can be addressed through counseling.
Grief & Loss
Experiencing the death of a loved one is often the most painful and stressful event that happens in our lives. And sometimes that grief can be complicated by well-intentioned, but inaccurate or even inappropriate things that others say to us ⎯ and that cause us to believe we “should” be responding differently than we are. Grief can also be tremendously compounded by trauma, such as a sudden death or a very lengthy illness. I’ve worked with thousands of bereaved individuals and remain deeply moved by the healing that is possible.
Surviving trauma often impacts every facet of a person’s life, and frequently changes the ways we think, act, feel, and interact with the world around us. We also know that trauma often becomes “frozen” in our minds and in our bodies, leading to depression, anxiety and panic, insomnia, and even physical pain and illness. I have helped hundreds of clients resolve deeply painful traumas with a combination of ‘traditional’ therapy and EMDR ⎯ and I remain inspired by such courage and resilience.
While small amounts of anxiety can motivate us to prepare, study, or rehearse, higher levels of anxiety can prevent us from fully experiencing our lives. We may feel incapacitated by fear, worry, and negative thoughts ⎯ and this often causes our world to become smaller and more restrictive. Counseling can help clients manage anxiety through adapting more positive self-talk and by learning healthy coping skills. Additionally, EMDR often helps alleviate anxiety altogether by reprocessing the traumas that originally caused or exacerbated the anxiety.
While everyone feels ‘sad’ or ‘down’ at times, depression is quite different and often involves longer periods of feeling alienated, isolated, hopeless, and unmotivated. Sometimes, well-meaning family and friends encourage us to “look on the bright side,” and this often leads to feeling a sense of guilt for a person struggling with depression. Counseling can help clients better manage depression by helping to develop achievable goals, maintain accountability, and by providing a space free of “shoulds.” Additionally, EMDR often helps relieve depressive symptoms by reprocessing the traumas and negative beliefs at the root of one’s depression.
We know that trauma, whether “little t” traumas that are unique to an individual (such as being made fun of on the playground in elementary school) or “Big T” traumas (such as a sexual assault or domestic violence), is always linked to a negative (or maladaptive) belief about oneself. For example, that child may carry the belief, “I’m not good enough” or “I’m unlovable” for a lifetime. The assault survivor may believe “I’m responsible” or “I should have done something.” EMDR gives our brains the opportunity to reprocess these traumas, leading to healthier, more adaptive beliefs and immensely improved lives.
Most people have at least one person or situation in their lives that challenges their patience and their boundaries on a routine basis. For example, some clients come to counseling because they have an adult child who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, and they are seeking assistance in discerning between “enabling” and “helping.” While counseling doesn’t provide an “answer” to these difficult circumstances, both traditional counseling and EMDR help clients identify their values, limitations, and patterns ⎯ and then helps them to establish and maintain boundaries.
We all benefit from social engagement and relationships with others ⎯ and, yet, sometimes those relationships are not healthy, become toxic, or are even harmful emotionally or physically. Counseling helps clients identify their own patterns, the roles they may play in their relationship challenges, whether they are committed to “working it out,” or if it is time to make deliberate changes. Within a trusting and safe therapeutic relationship, clients remain supported regarding their decisions and goals.
Our physical selves routinely require exercise, good nutrition, appropriate rest, and proper healthcare to feel our best. Likewise, our emotional selves benefit from regularly talking through concerns, resolving trauma, challenging negative beliefs that hold us back, expressing our emotions, and fine-tuning our goals. We are able to live intentionally, deliberately, and more meaningfully, rather than by default, when we place a priority on addressing our emotional well-being.