Counseling offers us the opportunity to identify the factors that contribute to difficulties and to deal effectively with the psychological, behavioral, interpersonal and situational causes of those difficulties. Some of the most common issues for which individuals come to counseling include:
- Family Issues
- Developmental Issues (ie. Separation, Identity Concerns)
- Gender Concerns
- Sexuality Concerns
- Academic Problems
- Recovering From Impact of Physical, Emotional or Sexual Abuse
- Physical Problems (ie. Tension, Stomach Pains, Insomnia)
- Alcohol or Substance Abuse
- Eating Disorders and/or Body Image Issues
- Anxiety (ie. Social, General, or Specific Phobias)
- Sleep Concerns (ie. Nightmares, Poor Sleep Habits, Sleeping Too Little or Too Much)
It is therapeutic to talk about your concerns. Most of us have probably had the experience of relief after talking with a friend or family member about something we had been holding in. Usually our concerns seem more manageable when we talk about them with someone we trust. As we talk, our perspective on the problem often begins to change.
Talking with a counselor can also help us to:
- Pinpoint problems and understand aspects of the problems that may be improved.
- Identify negative or problematic thinking patterns that contribute to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and to develop a more positive outlook.
- Explore learned thoughts and behaviors that create or maintain problems.
- Regain a sense of control and pleasure in life.
- Discover strengths you have and how to use them to grow stronger in other areas.
- Counseling goes beyond the obvious, and helps get us unstuck. It is often the case that we know what we should be doing to help us feel better, but can’t seem to be able to do what we know we should. Counseling helps us work through the obstacles that keep us from doing what we know would be helpful.
Counseling is a sign of weakness: Nothing could be further from the truth. It takes courage to acknowledge a problem or difficulty. Entering counseling is an important first step in resolving the problem.
Counseling is only for people with serious emotional problems: Although counseling can be beneficial for people who do have serious emotional problems, it is also helpful for people with everyday concerns such as adjustment or phase of life issues.
Counseling is advice giving: By the time many people come to counseling, they have had more advice than they can handle. Counseling operates from the premise that the counselor is knowledgeable about the change process, but that you are the expert on your life. In some ways counseling is like working with a coach. You do the work, but by working with someone who has training and experience with facilitating positive change, you are likely to work more effectively and see results more quickly.
Counseling is a last resort: Most of us do not think that we have to experience a heart attack before we can see a doctor; it is OK to go if we merely have a sprained ankle. The same applies to counseling – you don’t have to have the emotional equivalent of a heart attack to see a counselor. By working with a counselor you can often get back on track much faster and save yourself a lot of unnecessary distress.
Counseling is not confidential: Mental health professionals must maintain confidentiality except as authorized or required by law. Exceptions to confidentiality include: situations wherein you are a physical threat to someone else or yourself; there is suspected harm being done to a child, elder adult, or disabled individual; a judge provides a court order requiring that we release your records. You will, of course, be notified if your counselor is required to share information in any of these instances. Please feel free to ask your counselor about confidentiality laws.
Sand tray therapy is used to assess and treat the mental health and well being of children by observing how they express themselves through the setting-up of a variety of miniature toys in a small sandbox (sand-tray). Children are asked to create a diorama (a story or miniature world) by arranging toy people, animals, cars, dinosaurs, etc. in the sand tray. The sand tray therapist studies and asks questions about the child’s choice and use of objects to help understand what they may be thinking about or struggling with. It is my experience that as children progress, they are able to work out and move through unconscious issues through their sand tray story, which evolves over the weeks. Because the process is beneath the child’s level of understanding, they can, for example, allow the child figure to eventually overcome the object of their fear or distress, gaining confidence and coming to a resolution. Sand Tray therapy works especially well with children who have trouble comprehending and talking about difficult issues, such as domestic abuse or child abuse, incest, or the death of a family member.
Play is the natural way that children understand their world, express thoughts and feelings, develop social skills and learn self-mastery. Child Centered Play Therapy is a medium for children to express their feelings, explore relationships, and talk about their experiences, wishes, anxieties, and feelings in a natural way. Children often have difficulty trying to say in words what they feel or how experiences have affected them. Through toys and art materials, children can show their inner feelings by the toys they choose and how they play with them. The Play Therapist simply observes these actions, follows the child’s lead, and allows the toys to explain what the child is going through. As in sand tray therapy, it is my experience that children learn from the resolution of their toys “problems” and release their emotions through their toys. In addition, play allows children to feel safe and comfortable and a relationship of trust develops for the child and the Play Therapist, allowing for transformation.
A Family Therapist helps family members find constructive ways to communicate and understand each other. They work in ways that acknowledge the contexts of people’s families and other relationships, sharing and respecting individuals’ different perspectives, beliefs, views and stories, and explores possible ways to move forward so that everyone benefits. In addition, family therapists assist families in coming up with acceptable solutions to problems, including creating behavior modification tools such as homework charts, star charts, and behavior management systems. Family Therapists also can teach parents valuable behavior modification/parenting techniques.
Each situation is different, dependent on the presenting problem and the age of the child. However, generally I like to see the family together at the first session in order to get an idea of the big picture and to get the perspectives of both the young person and the parent(s). At that point I will continue with the child for several sessions, although I will want to check in with the family briefly at the beginning of each session. With a child around 10 or younger I utilize play therapy and sand tray therapy (please see above for a brief explanation). With an older child I prefer a mixture of play and talk therapy. I will then call the family back together to reevaluate. If, at any point, family therapy is indicated, I will make that recommendation. I like to keep information in the child sessions confidential whenever possible, this assists with trust and allows your child to feel comfortable sharing with me (this is especially important with teenagers). However, I am legally obligated to share with parents any cases of children being hurt or wanting to hurt himself or herself or someone else. Also, I encourage and support children to be honest with his or her parents regarding things that are bothering them in order to help facilitate growth.