Elizabeth Nyblade, Ph.D.
Gateway Centre
1313 E. Maple Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
P: 360.647.8295
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  Question :
  What happens in counseling?
 Answer :

Generally, you’ll fill out information about yourself first, as you would for any doctor, and you’ll receive information about the counselor. Hopefully you will learn about her employment history and some information about how she was trained and what problems she likes to work with. If you’ve ‘interviewed’ the counselor by phone first, you’ll probably have a good start on that already.

In the first session, your counselor will ask you to talk about the issue that brings you in to counseling, and you’ll describe that in your own words. You’ll probably discuss it in detail with the counselor and you’ll get a chance to see how the counselor thinks about things, and how she works with you. Probably you’ll also be asked some standard background questions about your schooling, your medical history, your family and your current circumstances. You’ll probably talk about what your goals are for counseling, that is, what you want to change about yourself and about your life. Often the goals will take the form of new skills you want to learn. For example, you may want to be able to handle your mother better when she visits you, or you may want to learn to understand your past better.

After the first session, you’ll probably want to talk about events from the previous week that relate to your goals or thoughts and feelings you’ve had that you want to talk over and understand better. You may want advice about how to handle specific issues in your daily life or you may want support for the progress you’ve made in achieving your goals. You won’t necessarily ‘feel good’ after each session, but you should ‘feel good about the session.’ You should feel that you were heard, that the counselor was on your side and wanted you to achieve your goals. You should think that the counselor was knowledgeable about your problem and that she was contributing to you solving it during the session. The counselor might point out things you already knew or share his or her own thoughts. Above all, you should feel hope that you can achieve your goals, if not today, at a foreseeable time in the future.

Therapy ends when you decide you’ve achieved your goals. Or perhaps when you decide you’ve benefited as much from talking to this counselor as you’re likely to. If you have big ambitions and smaller resources, maybe therapy ends when your reimbursement for therapy from your insurance runs out. For some people, therapy lasts for years and involves major changes in their life circumstances or in their ways of dealing with issues. For other people, therapy lasts just a few sessions until the specific issue they talk about has been resolved.

Some people see a therapist only once and leave because they didn’t think it helped them. Oddly enough, the research says that those people were helped by that single contact even though they didn’t think it was helpful!

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Gateway Centre • 1313 E. Maple Street • Bellingham, WA 98225

Telephone: 360-647-8295

Fax: 360.647.8296

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