Many people turn to professional therapist, psychologists and psychiatrists to fulfill their mental health needs. Psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists all have specific roles they play in the mental health field, with the therapist playing the role with the most patient contact. These therapists are often referred to as counselors and their jobs are often misunderstood. What do you expect from your counselor or therapist?
Very often I hear people talk of the failing of their counselor or therapist. This is usually based on the fact that the metal health professional did not give the client the answers to how to solve their problems. I find myself explaining over and over that this is not the role of the counselor. They are not all knowing, nor do they know all the facets of the problem. For instance, you should not walk into the office of a marriage counselor and expect them to tell you that it’s time to give up and get a divorce. If you do get this result when you see your marriage counselor, I would encourage you to find a different counselor.
The role of a therapist or counselor is to help you to make healthy decisions for yourself. That means listening and asking questions. Most of all it means helping you to explore the negative coping skills you use and why you use them so that you can get to the core of the problem and develop positive coping skills as well as other life skills.
You may also be slightly offended at the personal questions you are asked. During one counseling session, a couple that wishes to remain anonymous was asked about their sex life. While they found this question to be too personal and offensive, they had also asked for professional help in their marriage and intimacy was just one facet that was involved.
If your therapist were to direct you in your life decisions, then they wouldn’t be doing their job, which is to help you to make your own decisions using new life skills. If you are seeing a therapist, then you may have felt that your life was going in a direction you were unhappy with or things were bothering you that you need to deal with. The counselor cannot fix all of these things for you. They cannot remove painful memories or make the decision over whether or not you need to leave a relationship. In fact, this would only enable you to continue to use unhealthy methods to deal with your life.
As we grow and mature, we develop habits and methods of dealing with life that are what we feel we need to do at the time they were developed. However, as we grow and learn, we may find that some of these actions are unhealthy and yet we may be unsure as to how we can change them. The role of the mental health professional is to help you to learn and develop actions that are moving you in a positive direction in your life.
There is no black and white answer sheet. There is no magical pill. There is learning and perseverance. Before you decide that your therapist has failed, ask yourself what you expected from them and if those expectations were realistic. In fact, before you even go to a therapist, you need to decide what you want from them. This may even be a question that the therapist asks you during your first session. Your answer will help them to understand what it is you are looking for and why.