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what is counseling?

per the american counseling association

Counseling is a collaborative effort between the counselor and client. Professional counselors help clients identify goals and potential solutions to problems which cause emotional turmoil; seek to improve communication and coping skills; strengthen self-esteem; and promote behavior change and optimal mental health.

How long does counseling take?

Ideally, counseling is terminated when the problem that you pursued counseling for becomes more manageable or is resolved. However, some insurance companies and managed care plans may limit the number of sessions for which they pay. Check with your health plan to find out more about any limitations in your coverage.

what not to expect…

  • Do not expect an instant cure from a counselor. Your problems have been yours for a long time and are well established. These patterns can take a while to change.
  • Do not expect a counselor to be your friend in or outside of the counseling session. Dual relationships can lead to complications with your counseling and should be avoided. You may wonder why your counselor doesn’t approach and acknowledge you in public. This is because they want to keep your relationship confidential. If you make the first move you will get a different response. They will not ‘Friend’ you are accept your ‘Friend’ request on social media.
  • It is also unlikely that your counselor will attend social functions with you. They MAY attend major life events like a wedding or graduation to acknowledge the significance in your life. Talk to your counselor about your feelings concerning these matters!

your part in counseling

  • Show up on time for appointments. Unlike other doctors that may keep you waiting for an appointment or that may accept you even if you show up late, a counselor has a specific hour set aside for you. If you are late, then you are missing time that was reserved for you. The counselor has no obligation to make the session run late because you showed up late. Most likely, the counselor will have another client waiting to start at the beginning of the next hour. The counselor will not take telephone calls or attend to any business other than yours during your counseling session.
  • Cancel appointments you cannot make in advance so the counselor can reschedule (usually 24 to 48 hours). Often a counselor will charge full-fee for missed appointments that are not canceled 24 hours in advance. Insurance will not pay for any part of missed appointments.
  • Share your perceptions and feelings as openly and honestly as you can. This involves taking the risk of sharing your deepest fears and concerns–this will help you to make progress quickly.
  • Actively work on your issues with your counselor.
  • Participate in changing that with which you are uncomfortable. Some people come into counseling with the attitude, “I’m here, now fix me.” You are entering counseling because you are uncomfortable with some aspect of yourself. The counselor will not typically try to change you with greater effort than you are willing to expend.
  • Complete any “homework” which was assigned. These ‘opportunities’ offer a chance to integrate what you have done in a session with life beyond counseling. Completing assignments can actually speed up your healing and growing.
  • Think about and reflect on your counseling between sessions. Be ready to discuss things that might come up between sessions. You may even want to start keeping a journal of your experiences. You may also find that you have no thoughts or issues related to sessions that arise between sessions. This is okay too.
  • Discuss with the counselor when you feel that you are finished with therapy BEFORE actually stopping. You have put a great deal of energy into your counseling and it will be important to bring closure to your counseling and to put a plan into place about continuing to use your new tools and skills.


If you follow these guidelines, you are not only living up to the goals of counseling; you are also putting yourself in the best position to get the most out of the experience.