As a mental health counselor, and a human being, I wanted to begin counseling. I understand the importance of counseling, I was curious what it would be like to be the client, and I truly needed a professional to speak with about the insurmountable thoughts swirling around in my head. With this goal in mind, I set out — like many others — to find a therapist who would accept my insurance.
Fun tip: Sometimes, depending on your insurance carrier, you can go to counseling for FREE!
Luckily, I found a therapist who accepted my insurance and whom worked in my town. I was elated and beyond excited, albeit a bit nervous, for my first appointment.
As a counselor, I knew that I would probably feel a little “judgy”. I did not want to judge a fellow professional, but we all have a different therapeutic style. Personally, I prefer CBT and Person-Centered therapy, whereas my current therapist practices a Psychoanalytical standard. I understood that this therapist could be much different than I am in my own practice, but I was excited to see what it would be like and hoped to refrain from any judgement.
However, my first session did not go quite like I had hoped. I felt like I did not get enough room to talk. It was the first appointment, but I felt that I did not get a chance to lay enough groundwork. In my own work, I like to utilize the first session to let the client spill it all. I allow them the space to share what is on their mind currently, learn about their background, and learn about their current life and what led them to my office that day. But I felt like my time to do that was cut short. And it also appeared that my counselor was unsure of how to help. When I mentioned my phobia of needles and being anxious about getting my blood drawn the following day (I recently overcame this fear thanks to Jesus), she begun searching through her bookshelf for information about anxiety.
Basically, the session was not good and I felt confused as I left. But I also understand that the first session can sometimes be a bit awkward since you are beginning a new relationship with someone. And an intimate relationship! A relationship where you will share every part of yourself. So, I decided to give it another shot.
The same sort of stuff occurred in the second appointment. I wasn’t mad about it, but I knew that she was not the right fit for me. And friends, that is a thing. Sometimes a counselor can be great at what they do, but they simply are not a good fit for you! Just like how every person you meet will not be your cup of tea, every counselor you meet will not be your cup of tea either. You must take the time to find the right fit for you and hopefully counselors you meet will assist you in that search.
Anyways, the kicker happened at the end of the session. We had not formally ended and still had a few minutes left when her cell phone rang. One huge problem here is that a cell phone should not be sitting with you during a counseling session. Cell phones are a HUGE distraction and should be put away. When she checked the phone call she looked at me and said, “I really need to take this call. Was there anything else?”. Shocked at this, I said no. She took the call, but I continued to sit there because I was honestly not sure what to do. She looked at me again and said, “Do you need anything else?”. I said no and took it upon myself to leave. Without any other comments and feeling completely discouraged, I walked out of my final counseling appointment with her.
But as I walked out, I thought, Someone who does not know anything about counseling would probably walk out of counseling for the last time ever; not just with her. And that bothered me.
If you have never been to counseling before and receive that experience, you would probably think counseling sucks and is a joke. And honestly, you may feel worse than before you arrived. I know I did! But that is the entire purpose behind this post.
I wanted to share that not all counseling experiences are like this. Like any other career, there are people who provide excellent services without any slip-ups, but there are also those who make mistakes. So to whoever is reading this, if you have tried therapy in the past or have been considering it, know that one counseling experience is not a marker for all counseling. Even if your first experience is an absolute train wreck, that is not your fault and it does NOT mean that you cannot find a good counselor for you.
When we encounter moments like this, we must take it upon ourselves to remember that it is not our fault and to seek someone else who can help us. That’s what I did. Now I have a wonderful therapist who I talk to about anything and everything, and he has already helped me so so much!
If you’ve had a terrible counseling experience or fear you may have one, try to alleviate that fear by remembering that it is okay to try a few different counselors. It is okay if not every counselor is a good fit for you. It is okay (for you) if a counselor is not following appropriate professionalism. And more importantly, a bad counseling experience is not your fault and it does not mean you should give up.
I fully support the nature of counseling. Duh, right? After all, I am a counselor. But trust me, I have seen the change that can happen even simply by having a safe place to talk. We all need that. Seriously. We have loved ones to speak with, but there is just something so different about having someone who is legally bound to keep it confidential and who has received a degree to help you with whatever you may be facing.
Personally, I think therapy is awesome even if we have some bad experiences here and there. I’d go as far to say THERAPY IS COOL.