Over the last few years, there has been a steady erosion of the stigma surrounding therapy. Therapy isn’t something available or only for certain people – anyone can make use of and benefit from therapy.
Whatever your social, economic, cultural background, or your gender and age, going for counseling just may be the best decision you can make for yourself right now. Being able to recognize when you need help, and then taking the next step to get that help, is a sign of courage and strength.
What is Individual Counseling and How Does it Work?
Individual counseling or therapy is a type of therapy where the client meets one-to-one with a trained and licensed therapist to address issues of concern. The client and therapist will meet once or twice a week for about an hour for anything from a few weeks to several years depending on the issue. The therapeutic space is a safe and confidential one.
What you share won’t be disclosed to third parties except in some strictly defined situations where there may be imminent harm to either you or another person involved. A therapist doesn’t solve your problems for you – rather, they listen actively as you share your concerns, asking probing and clarifying questions, reflecting, and summarizing what they’re hearing.
Through questions, observations, and specially designed exercises, they can help their clients become aware of harmful thought and behavior patterns, and they can deploy their toolkit to give their clients the skills they need to cope and begin addressing their issues. The process is about helping a person see the issue for what it is, and to begin the task of developing a different way of thinking and being.
Therapists use a variety of techniques including evidence-based therapeutic techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Psychodynamic therapy, Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR) for conditions such as trauma and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), among many other techniques.
These techniques are used to help the client process what’s happened in their life, and to help them lead full lives. For a therapist to practice, they need to have obtained a graduate degree in psychology or a related field, and in addition, they need to have typically served about 3,000 clinic hours under the supervision of another licensed therapist.
Each state has its own requirements for the number of clinic hours served, professional examinations they need to take to be licensed, and additional training they need to receive to remain licensed. It’s a rigorous process intended to ensure that when you go for therapy, your therapist has broad and intimate knowledge of these therapeutic techniques, and they know what they are doing.
In addition to state requirements to practice as therapists, Christian therapists are also skilled in techniques that incorporate Scripture, prayer, and other spiritual resources into the counseling process. When looking for the right therapist, if you are a person of faith and prefer an option that includes faith in the process, you may want to investigate whether they offer that option.
Your therapist will meet with you initially to understand the issue and they will begin to outline a treatment plan. A treatment plan outlines what techniques they may use in addressing the issue, and how many sessions may be needed for the process. It gives you a good sense of what is to come on the path ahead.
When you go for individual therapy, that doesn’t preclude you from attending group therapy for a different dynamic and additional perspective. Many people make use of both types of therapy to obtain the benefits of both.
Issues Addressed in Individual Counseling
Individual counseling can address a wide range of issues. Your counselor creates a safe space in which you can be heard and be guided toward a fruitful and flourishing life. Some of the issues that are addressed in individual counseling include:
- addiction – sexual addiction, and addiction to drugs, alcohol, and other substances
- anger issues
- anxiety and anxiety disorders
- substance abuse
- chemical dependence
- eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder
- difficulty making and keeping friends
- stress management
- weight problems
- trauma, resulting from emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse, assault, or experiencing a natural disaster
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- behavioral problems such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
- abandonment and neglect
- marital problems
- personal development
- grief and loss
These and other issues can be addressed through individual counseling.
Finding a Therapist
When you have decided that you want to go for counseling, how do you go about finding the right person for it? You can find a therapist at a hospital, private medical center, community center, in churches, and at other locales. One way to find a therapist is to approach someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, or a spiritual advisor for a recommendation. They may know someone who is the perfect fit for you.
One of the key considerations when finding a therapist is making sure that they are qualified and licensed. Each state maintains lists of the therapists in good standing and allowed to practice. A website search can tell whether a proposed therapist is fully trained and certified to practice. You’ll need to take the initiative to make sure that the person you entrust your recovery journey to is qualified for the job.
Another important question to ask as you narrow down your list of choices is “Does their philosophy or approach work for you?” Every therapist will have a certain way or style of doing things. Their personality is also a fact to consider because though two therapists may use the same technique, their demeanor and how they go about may be different, and you may find yourself more open to one than the other.
If you want someone who integrates Christian faith into your treatment plan in addition to the other techniques, then it’s important to look out for that. Feel free to ask questions such as “what techniques do they use?” “are they specialized in dealing with the issue you’re facing?” “How many years have they been doing the work?” and “what is the rate of success they’ve achieved with other clients?”
These and other questions are legitimate and important to ask, because among other things it helps you gain confidence in your therapist, and by asking the right kinds of questions you’ll also know if you’ll work well together. The counseling relationship works best when there is trust and mutual understanding between the therapist and client.
Lastly, you’ll have to make a few practical considerations. Individual therapy is typically not free, and typically it costs more than group therapy. Depending on your therapist, their level of expertise, their location, and so forth, that will affect how much each hour of therapy will cost.
If you require several sessions a week, that will also affect the overall cost. Check to see whether your health insurance can cover the cost, or if you can pay what is required. Apart from the question of costs, the other practical question relates to the location and hours of your therapist.
If they are located far from you, that may not be practicable, unless if you can book online sessions with them. Additionally, depending on their hours, you may not be able to get off work in time to attend therapy.
All these considerations come into play as you choose your therapist. It may seem like a huge effort upfront, but once you go through it, you can begin the process of finding healing and wholeness with the confidence that you’ve made an informed choice. Going for therapy is one of the best decisions you can make for your overall well-being.
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