The Counseling Hub | Columbia, Mo
Whether this is your first time in counseling or your fiftieth, let's start with some basic information for you (especially if it's your first time, but a refresher for your fiftieth isn't bad, either).
What is individual counseling?
We're happy you asked (and we think this is a great question)! Individual counseling is one-on-one counseling with a trained, licensed professional (this is how you know your counselor is qualified). It's not only important that your counselor has the right qualifications, it's also important that you see your counselor as being good at what they do.
Here are some important aspects of individual counseling that you should expect from your experience in counseling, as well as your counselor (our counselors are awesome, as a side note - meet our team).
You know the saying, "what happens in Vegas..." Okay, well, the same thing applies to counseling. In essence, everything that's spoken about in counseling stays within the walls of the counseling office. There are exceptions to this rule. But the limits of confidentiality are something that your counselor should cover with you in the first session, and you can also find them in the informed consent (which you'll likely have signed before even starting to talk).
We would think this goes without saying, but it's probably important to include, just in case. We absolutely, positively, without a doubt want our clients to feel accepted. The world is full of judgment, but the counseling office should have none of it.
- Space to Talk and Feel
Before you get all, "I don't have feelings" on us - just hear us out. Feelings are physiological, meaning that you can't not have feelings. You might be uncomfortable with them, you might be disconnected from them, and/or they might not be safe to experience, but they're there. Part of the experience of being in counseling is having enough space to explore whatever is going on.
What isn't individual counseling?
Let's bust a few misconceptions while we're at it. As important as it is to understand what counseling is, we'd argue that it's equally important to understand what counseling isn't. And in that case, counseling is not:
- the same thing as friendship (a very common misunderstanding)
- a place for your counselor to disclose their problems, issues, or current stressors
- a way to get a direct answer from a third party (i.e. your counselor)
- a white bearded man sitting behind you copiously writing notes ;)
Why do people come in for individual counseling?
Our biased answer is because people want to feel heard and validated. They want raw, gut-wrenching, soul-baring conversations in a world that glorifies the shallow and treats vulnerability like it has no place and shouldn't exist. People want to be seen. And we want to see people. This is why we're here. We crave that honesty just as much as you do.
Our alternative answer is that there are a variety of reasons that get people in the door. People come in for anxiety, depression, issues with confidence and boundaries, self-esteem, and sexual identity. That's not even a full list (see our services here). And, the funny thing (is funny the right word?) is that people come in for a specific topic, but soon see that their lives really are like tapestries; it's hard to follow one line without intersecting and overlapping with many others.
What can I expect from my first session?
This is another great question. Here's what you can expect. And while we write these with a numbered list, please note that they aren't necessarily in sequential order.
- Confidentiality and Informed Consent
Seems obvious, but your counselor should spend some time talking about confidentiality and informed consent, which includes things like your rights as a client, the limits of confidentiality, ongoing supervision or consultation, and more. It's also a place where you can get any questions you have answered (about privacy, confidentiality, training, and more). It's not the only place to get questions answered, but it's an open start.
- Description of Problem(s)
The next thing you might do is expand on what got you in the door in the first place. Depending on the topic, this might take you five minutes or it might take you 20. It's really
- Strengths, Goals, and Successful Therapy
Your counselor will likely shift into some conversation around what your goals are for counseling. This seems like an easy answer (i.e. "I want to be happier!"), but our role as counselors is to distill that down into specific, tangible goals that are achievable and realistic, so you might be met with questions like, "How do you define happier?" Or Well, what's the look like in your daily life?" Or even, "How would you know you were happier?" And that's just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.
You'll also probably spend a little bit of time talking about your strengths. It's true that we'll spend plenty of time exploring and understanding the problems, but your strengths are an underrated contender. We want to (and, dare we say, need to) know what's going well for you, what you see positive in yourself, and what areas we can play into in order to withstand any fallout from the changes you might make.
- Flip the Puzzle Box
Alright, final aspect of the first session. Think back to the last time you put together a 500-piece puzzle (if ever - even a 50-piece puzzle is fine to think about). What's the first thing you did? Well, you probably flipped the puzzle box over. And, at that point, you started to make sense of all the pieces. You flip them over on the table, start to organize and group them according to colors and edge pieces, and then you start to slowly piece together the outside of the puzzle. Right? Hopefully right. Even if you didn't do that, it's a methodical way to start!
We do the same thing in counseling. The first session is the metaphorical flipping of the puzzle box. Putting as much as we can on the table, even if we're not talking specifically about the issue you've come in with, we're building a big picture of who you are, what the picture is going to look like, how much you already have put together (maybe you've done this puzzle before, but in a different piece amount), and getting an idea of about how long we see it taking. It's seriously magical.
How do I choose the right therapist?
This is one of our favorite topics. When people call in looking for a counselor, we absolutely make sure that they find somebody who they feel comfortable with and who has the right experience and expertise. But guess what? If that counselor (the one with the right experience and comfort level) isn't at The Counseling Hub, then we refer out. Because it's way more important to us that you find a person who you feel good with than it is to keep you coming to our practice. Your healing and growth is powerful and significant, way more so than "keeping" you at a place where you growth could be limited.
That aside, here's some simple info on what you should look for in a counselor. And below, you'll find a little more nuanced information for what to look for in an individual counselor.
- Qualifications, Certifications, and Licensing
There are standard requirements to know your counselor is qualified for individual counseling, and you want to ensure that your counselor has them met (you can find ours on our team bios). There's also a less well-known factor by layfolk (read: non-counselors). In short, family counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling are not the same thing. I repeat, they are not the same thing. If you're looking for an individual counselor, then you want to make sure that your counselor has the training, education, and specialty for the 'thing' you're coming in for. That can make such a difference in the work you do!
- Goodness of Fit
Yes, there are basic ways of telling if your counselor is any good, but truth be told, if you're uncomfortable with yoru counselor, then how "good" they are is pretty irrelevant. It's hard to get work done in the ocunseling office when the relationship is off between you and your counselor. In fact, counseling is less effective when that happens, and what we want is for people to heal and grow, so this is definitely something to keep in mind when scheduling or attending sessions.
Basically, you want to feel safe and supported with your counselor. You also want to feel heard and understood. You also want to spend time with somebody who does a thorough assessment of you and your partner (which is something we make sure to do, especially since we use the Gottman Method Couples Therapy approach)
Your counselor can seem awesome, but it's important to pay attention to whether or not they're doing good work with you. If you haven't seen any improvements in your life (after giving it "enough" time, which varies from client to client), then it might be time to ask for a referral. We want people to heal and grow, and we have no issues or qualms when we refer out to others who might be a better fit.
We are passionate about helping people. We strive to do our best work, including that our team has the proper training and qualifications, as well as alignment with the values of The Counseling Hub. It's our mission to help people cultivate, repair, and maintain fulfilling relationships in their lives. We take that very seriously.
If you have other questions or want to know more about individual counseling, email our Client Liaison! If you're ready for scheduling, click the button below to share some basic information and we'll get you set up!