By Lauren Berger Counsellor, MSW, RSW
Congratulations, you’ve set up your first meeting with your counsellor or therapist! You know that you’ve been feeling like talking and that you want some changes in your life… But how do you express what kind of help you’re looking for? Do you even know exactly what you’re looking for?!
Based on my experience, these are the top issues to be discussed with your therapist to get the most helpful lifelong advice:
- How do I cope with… ? Much of the time our life problems can’t exactly be solved, but we can certainly learn to cope much more effectively to make the issues seem very tolerable. Coping strategies can run the gamut from relaxation exercises to cognitive choices to communication strategies. Your counsellor can help determine what will be most effective for you to help you cope.
- How do I improve my communication with my… ? Whether it’s your partner, mom, boss, or frienemy, conflicts are bound to arise in life. The key to improving relations is (say it with me now) communication, communication, communication! Whenever you are dealing with another person, you will find your relationship will be much smoother if you can get your point across to the other person and learn to properly interpret the messages that they give you. Effective communication can save a lot of negative emotion, energy, and time, improving that challenging relationship!
- How can I finally learn to relax?! Hey, life is hard! But don’t go cursing every challenge that comes your way. As the old adage says, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” That said, feeling stressed all the time isn’t good for anyone. Relaxation strategies offer us ways to cope with all those challenges and make us feel calmer in the face of anxiety. There are so many great ways to relax. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. Your counsellor can suggest relaxation strategies tailored to your needs, lifestyle, and goals. Is time an issue? Ask me about my 60 Second Calm strategy or ways to build relaxation into the activities you’re already doing. You may be surprised at just how much better you feel.
- How do I finally stick with my goal/life change… for good? Making real life changes, no matter how badly we want them, is hard. Discussing your reasons for wanting to achieve this goal helps solidify your commitment and motivate you to keep going when the going gets tough. Ensuring you have techniques that work for you to get through the challenging times is key. You and your therapist can discover and select the best mechanisms to keep you on track. Support is essential, whether your friends and family have your back or if you need to depend mostly on your counsellor. Just remember: permanent change is absolutely possible. With commitment and support, you can get there.
Chat with your counsellor about ways she can help you navigate challenges, make sense of emotions, and reach your goals. Don’t forget: your therapist needs to be a good fit! If you don’t click with the first counsellor you meet, no worries; not everyone responds perfectly to every therapist or their techniques. Don’t give up! Talk to a few to find the best match for you.
Lauren Berger is BACK at the Integrative Health Institute on January 6, 2016! She is a Registered Social Worker providing counselling and psychotherapy. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW. Book your appointment with Lauren here.