So recently I began counseling...again. This makes my fourth time starting. However, this time it is with a long term counselor that will allow me to really dive deep into my transition. I think that is why I feel so vulnerable when I think about it. This is all becoming very real. I am at the point where my next steps could make or break me, my relationships, and my future.
I have learned a few things throughout my years of receiving counseling.
You only get what you put in. If you expect to make progress, you can't go in tight-lipped. Of course, opening up is a process that affects people differently. However, you have to make it your goal to be able to open up to your counselor.
It is a process! There will be times when you spend a session discussing something that seems to have no correlation to what you thought needed addressing. It's all connected though. All of your experiences, traumatic and mundane, made you who you are today.
It is a journey and a process that not many will understand. You might experience resistance from those who care about you the most. First, because everyone's journey looks a little different, and secondly because not matter how many commercials you see for antidepressants or how many posts are made about self-care, active mental health work is still taboo for a lot of people. It's kind of like sex. If you are exposed to any sort of media you will see sexualized images or portrayals of sex, with little to no resistance. However, the topic of sex education is polarizing.
You are in charge! Going to counseling is not signing into a contractual obligation. You know yourself the best, and should be striving to know yourself even better. Therefore, you know what is best for you. If you feel that you are not compatible with a clinician, that is okay! Let them know. A great counselor will guide to their personal network of other professionals that may be able to better help you.
Your counselor's identity matters...sometimes more than their specializations. Depending on what you are seeking counseling for will determine how important certain things are. For example, if you are dealing with general anxiety, most counselors are able to help you with that. So you may find that the counselor's identity is more important. The one time that I was able to have a black clinician, it was so freeing. Opening up was not hard at all because since we had a similar cultural experience, I didn't have to speak so explicitly for them to understand what I meant. On the other hand, if you are dealing with something like LGBTQ+ issues or specific personality disorders, then seeking someone with a certain specialization is more useful. However, if you can find someone with the right specialization that comes from a similar culture as yourself, you are in great hands...usually. However, if not, refer back to number 4.