Counseling is a very unique job and I think it’s often misunderstood. Rightly so! Having been a client for counseling myself before, I can tell you that I’ve had my share of awful experiences. So I understand many people’s hesitation and confusion around what counseling is supposed to be.

Even if you decide not to work with me, let me help fill you in on the 2 core essentials of what counseling ideally should be (in my opinion).

The first core piece of counseling is the relationship.

We don’t exactly understand why counseling works. But we do know that it works. If we’re ever able to distill the primary reasons why counseling works, I would not be shocked in any way shape or form if we discovered it was because of the helping relationship.

Brene Brown (who I cite very frequently) states that shame occurs in the context of two or more people and therefore must be resolved in the context of two or more people. Thus, why counseling is so effective.

The issues that we go into talk about with a counselor never occur in isolation. We develop these issues and struggles because we are living life. Seeing as how humans are social creatures (like pack animals (yes, as much as you say you hate people, you do actually need other people in your life to properly and healthily function)), our joys and pains typically occur within social contexts.

In case you didn’t know, counseling counts as a social context. It’s a weird one. But it is a social one. Yes, we’re not socializing, per se, but we (as clients) act out our typical behaviors within the counseling space which is what gives the counselor stuff to work with (so work on being authentic with your counselor! I promise it will help your process).

The second core piece of counseling is the goal of the relationship.

What has hurt me every time as a client is when my counselor developed some kind of hidden agenda for me. This usually comes from what counselors call countertransference which is where the counselor gets triggered by the client’s issues.

What I believe makes the goal of a counseling relationship most effective is when the counselor is able to clearly identify clients’ worldviews, personality, and history and allow the goals to form from that.

It’s very much like gardening. We don’t plant rose seeds expecting them to grow into lilies. No! We plant the seeds, provide water, nourishment, maybe some structure, maybe some weeding as needed, boundaries with some nice pavers or little fences, and allow the plants to flourish into what they are supposed to be.

It’s also a lot like being a book editor. Our job is not to change the script. Our job is to remain true to the writer’s story and help with some of the finer tuning like grammar, spell checking, and maybe suggesting some re-writes of the same plot. But creative license and direction always rests with the author.

Thus, when you’re looking for a counselor, take a look at them as if they were a gardener or an editor.

It’s your garden. It’s your story. You’re merely inviting someone to help take a look and make some suggestions.

Do you like this person? Can they take direction from you? Can you show them your hopes and dreams for your garden or story? Do you think you can trust them? Do you have a sense that you can collaboratively work well with them? Are you writing a heroically tragic story and they’re wanting you to write a romance? Are you planting a succulent garden and they’re better versed in traditional English gardens?

Be picky! And don’t be afraid to invest the money when you’ve found the right relationship even if they aren’t paneled by your insurance company. The right therapist will be worth working with and you will get your money’s worth out of it.

If you’re needing counseling of any kind, make sure you’re interviewing them as much as they’re learning about you at the beginning! You’ve got this!