When you think about your well-being, you might consider things like whether you’re exercising enough, eating nutritious meals, and getting plenty of restful sleep every night. Some people might also think about how they’re doing in terms of their mental health – for example, you might try to pay attention to signs of depression or manage your stress in healthier ways.
You may not think of counseling as a way to improve your well-being. Most of us tend to think of counseling as something you need when you’re already unwell. For example, you might see a counselor if you’ve recently experienced a loss or are having marital problems.
But just like you’d see a personal trainer for fitness needs or a spiritual advisor to connect more with your faith, you can see a counselor to improve your mental and emotional well-being. You don’t need to live with a mental illness to benefit from seeing a counselor. In fact, counseling could be the missing piece in your overall well-being – and if you’re part of MINES & Associates’ Employee Assistance Program, it’s a free service that you have at your disposal.
Let’s discuss how counseling might be able to benefit you, and how to get started if you’re interested.
The benefits of counseling for your health and well-being
Counseling, or talk therapy, is often used as an effective treatment intervention for mental health conditions. But that’s not all counseling is good for. Many people go to counseling simply to maintain their well-being.
There are so many benefits of counseling for your health, whether or not you live with a mental health condition. Counseling can help you:
- Become more aware of your thoughts and emotions
- Have a safe and confidential space to explore those thoughts and emotions as well as past experiences
- Learn skills to better manage stress
- Improve your sense of self-worth and self-esteem
- Become more compassionate with yourself
- Set personal goals and be accountable to them
- Live a more meaningful life that’s aligned with your deepest values
- Explore underlying issues that may have stemmed from childhood or other past experiences
- Make healthier decisions
- Manage strong and painful emotions like anger or grief
- Encourage you to making healthy changes in your life, including changes in your physical health habits (like exercise or sleep)
- Improve your communication skills and strengthen your interpersonal relationships
- Make you feel less alone
- Ensure you’re setting aside time to take care of your mental and emotional health
By seeing a counselor, you can ensure that every part of your well-being is taken care of. Well-being isn’t just about being physically healthy. It’s about addressing every aspect of your health, and feeling physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, spiritually, and financially at your best. Counseling can help you address many of these areas.
If your well-being is important to you, but continue to feel like you’re not living up to your full potential, it could be that counseling is the missing link.
Overcoming common concerns about counseling
There might be some things that have held you back from seeing a counselor. But it’s important to understand that while all of these concerns are valid, some are based on myths that simply aren’t true.
Some common reasons people don’t see a counselor (even though it could benefit them) include:
- Stigma: People may worry about what others will think of them if they find out they are seeing a counselor. Although things have improved, there is still a big stigma against getting mental health support, and it’s valid to be concerned. In reality, counselors and other mental health professionals are bound by confidentiality laws, and they will never speak to anyone about your sessions except under specific emergency situations. No one has to know that you’re seeing a counselor if you don’t want them to.
- Finances: People could also be under the impression that counseling is expensive and not often covered by insurance. Although this is true in some cases, there are exceptions. For example, your employer may offer an Employee Assistance Program that provides free counseling.
- They don’t have a mental illness: Some may believe that counseling is only a treatment for those who live with a mental illness like depression. While counseling is very effective in treating mental health conditions, people see counselors for many different reasons that have nothing to do with mental illness. For example, people could see a counselor to be more accountable to their goals or simply to deepen their self-awareness.
- Not knowing where to start: Some people don’t see a counselor simply because they don’t know how to find one. This is valid, and some communities do face lower access to mental health treatment providers than others. However, there may be some avenues in which you can access counseling easily – for example, through your EAP.
- Discomfort talking about personal issues: Many people find the idea of talking about personal issues to someone outside of their inner circle very uncomfortable. You may not be used to sharing intimate details of your inner life to anyone else. It may help to know that part of your counselor’s role is to build a strong therapeutic alliance with you. This may take time, but your counselor will work together with you to ensure that a trusting and safe relationship is built.
What to expect in counseling
It can be scary to start counseling when it’s your first time. Some people find it helps to know what to expect.
Choosing the right counselor is important. Define for yourself what it is that you’re looking for in a counselor. Different counselors have different approaches. They also have different areas of expertise – for example, if you want to address relationship concerns, then it may be helpful to work with a counselor who is trained in this area.
In the first counseling session, your counselor will focus on getting to know more about you. They may ask you questions about what you’re hoping to gain from counseling, your past experience with counseling, your mental health history, and more. They will start building a therapeutic alliance with you right away in these initial stages of counseling.
The first session is also an opportunity for you to ask questions. You can ask questions about the counselor’s style, whether or not you will receive homework between sessions, cancellation policies, information about insurance and billing, and more. If there is something important that you’d like the counselor to know, then this is a great opportunity to share – although you don’t need to share everything in one session.
Assessment may take several sessions. Your counselor may gather information to develop an appropriate plan and make a diagnosis when appropriate.
What comes next may depend on what theoretical orientation your counselor is working from. Some counselors may help you work on your relationship skills, while others may help you to address and challenge unhelpful thinking patterns, while others may help you process past trauma.
How long you are in counseling also depends on your specific situation. Some people are only in counseling for a few months, while others are in counseling for several years. Just like seeing a personal trainer, it depends on your goals and what you’re hoping to gain.
No matter what type of counselor you work with, certain things will remain true across the board. For example, all licensed counselors are bound by confidentiality laws. This means that they are legally required to keep the information you share confidential.
There are a few exceptions – if you are at risk of hurting yourself or others, then the counselor may need to share information to keep you and others safe. Counselors are also mandated reporters, which means that if you share that a child is being abused, then they will need to report this information to the appropriate authorities.
How to get started with counseling
If you’re interested in reaching holistic well-being through counseling, then there are many ways to begin.
Some people find their counselor through their health insurance. You can also ask your primary care provider, or other community members, for recommendations. Going through your Employee Assistance Program is a quick and hassle-free way to get started with counseling. MINES & Associates’ EAP provides 24/7 free and confidential counseling as well as managed behavioral health care and more. Get in touch with us to learn more about your benefits and see how counseling could help you.
To Your Wellbeing,
The MINES Team