Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Word on Counseling

Years ago I saw a counselor who helped me through a tough transition (or two).  After A died, I went to a grief counselor – someone specifically trained in bereavement and grief. It wasn’t what I needed.

What I need from a counselor is someone who listens well but then offers feedback, not just validation. Someone who gives me suggestions to change my own behaviors. Someone who offers tips on coping or altering outcomes. Counseling isn’t just a place to vent, I am looking to make actual changes – otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting on the couch in the first place!

So after the second visit with the grief counselor, I decided we should break up. I called up my old counselor and have been seeing her ever since. It seems that many people who are considering individual counseling, not just for baby loss but for any reason, give up if they don’t click right away during the first visit, with the first counselor. I’ve been to several counselors over the years before I found my current counselor who I like very much. I try to encourage others who’ve never done it to go two or three times before deciding if it’s no good for them. And then try a different counselor or two or three. Find someone whose personality and approach is compatible with you and your needs. Admittedly, this takes a lot of effort and if you’re seeking the assistance of a counselor, you’re struggling with some aspect of life and may not have extra energy to devote to test-driving various counselors. But it’s definitely worth it. Once you find that person, you’re set for a very long time.

My counselor is not a psychologist. She is a social worker. Titles don’t matter. Compatibility matters. I’m not trying to preach that everyone enroll in counseling. I’m saying from personal experience, I know that counseling can provide guidance that only an unbiased, third party can offer.

Plus, after A died I felt so helpless to make myself feel better that I was willing to try any avenue available: individual counseling, support groups, literature, websites, blogs. I had to do something! I don’t feel the need to attend counseling as often these days, or support group for that matter. But early on those appointments couldn’t come soon enough.

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