The Importance of Getting in the Door
Updated: Oct 17, 2020
Counseling and Therapy – The Importance of Getting in the Door
By Jasmine Schupp, July 18, 2020
It is not every day that an individual or couple finds themselves enthusiastically searching for a counselor and going to therapy. In fact, the majority of the time it is quite the opposite experience. Many of the individuals who wind up in a counselor’s office end up there because there is something not working in their world and they have been unable to rectify the situation on their own. Many times couples don’t come in until they are in some form or another of crisis such as betrayal, a high level of conflict or withdrawal from the relationship. One of the most common questions that I have been asked as a new practitioner and continue to be asked today is “I am ready to come to counseling, but how can I get my partner or teen to agree to come in?”
This was actually very similar to my own experience as a counselee. I grew up in a rural area that had very little to offer in the way of mental health services and then joined the military as a teenager once I left high school. I had learned very little about mental health prior to beginning my undergraduate college courses in my early 20’s. The extent of my knowledge being that counseling was something my foster sisters were required to do as a part of their stay with my family and that admitting mental health issues often got my fellow service members discharged from the military. The stigma on mental health is changing in the military community, but at the time that was my understanding and experience.
As I separated from the military and became more and more interested in helping those that I met with mental health issues, I also participated in my first counseling session as a client. The experience was initiated in a group setting as part of the requirement for my graduate degree in counseling. The vulnerability of going and sharing with people whom I did not know was anxiety provoking. Since then I have taken part in many more counseling experiences and have actually come to appreciate the process from a different vantage point. Initially I struggled to encourage people to come in when they would call with questions and reservations about engaging in the counseling process because I too had felt the same reservation and lack of certainty. My own experience has changed the way that I meet with my clients and the amount of respect and high regard I hold for somebody who is willing to come in and work with a professional on issues that they may not even be comfortable with themselves.
Some of the common reservations I hear from people are that they have not thought a lot about counseling before and it seems odd to go tell a stranger about their personal business, that it is uncomfortable, counseling doesn’t work or it’s not for me. It would be unfortunate for somebody to lose out on the opportunity to grow and gain tools that can aid them in creating the life that they want. In my experience, the majority of counselors are compassionate people who desire to help those who are ready to work through issues and gain tools, understanding and insight. Counseling is just another tool or option to aid people in the process towards growth, understanding, wellness or health.
For many it is not the fear of what they will uncover if they were to sign up for counseling, it is simply a fear or misunderstanding of the unknown. There have been so many times that I have witnessed an individual simply slow down and spend enough time being still and present to connect different patterns to experiences and defenses that they developed previously in their life. We live in a fast-paced society and it can be difficult at times to take a step back and really begin to understand ourselves and grow in areas that can impact our lives and relationships in very positive ways. It is normal to feel some uncertainty or anxiety when starting something like counseling, just like it is with any new experience.
As I have worked with more and more clients over the years, in individual and couples counseling sessions I have found that many of the participants feel a sense of relief in coming to their first session. Many come into the session with high anxiety surrounding the experience, particularly those who have never sought counseling services previously. However, the majority of the time they leave feeling relieved and many feel hopeful and look forward to coming back. Many choose to continue with services while they explore and work through various issues that are keeping them stuck. One of the biggest obstacles in the counseling process is making the decision to engage in the counseling process to begin with. I encourage those who may be on the fence or have a partner or teen who is on the fence to commit to coming to one session and then they can decide if counseling is the right fit for them. I cannot count the number of times that a client has done this and told me at the end of our work together that they were so glad that they had come and given it a try. Although it’s not the only way to grow, don’t rule out counseling just because of the uncertainty you feel surrounding getting in the door to begin with.
If you are considering beginning the counseling process or have questions about whether counseling might be an option for you, I encourage you to reach out and ask questions and to find resources in your community.