You may already know that counseling is different from any other kind of professional or personal relationship. But it’s pretty easy to be confused about what counseling looks like in real life, thanks to a lot of unrealistic Hollywood portrayals of counselors and therapists.
I’d like to offer some insight into what counseling means and how it can help people address problems or reach their personal goals. Here are my responses to some of the most common questions about what therapy is like.
What exactly does a counselor do? Are you going to just listen to me talk about feelings or give me advice about my problems?
That all depends on your preference and what type of issues you’re focusing on, but I generally try to take an active role in helping my clients. This usually means that I ask a lot of questions and encourage people to talk about their entire experience, including thoughts, emotions, sensations, beliefs, ideas, and so on. I offer interpretations, information, and suggestions. If someone really wants advice, I am happy to try to provide specific guidance in decision-making, but I make it clear whether the advice is coming from personal experience or professional expertise.
Is a counseling session like what I see on TV or in the movies? Will I have to tell you about my childhood?
Most media portrayals of counselors, therapists, or psychologists show either someone who is reserved and formal, or someone who is very emotionally intense. Personally, I tend to be casual and easy to connect with. I try to balance emotional intensity with a lot of humor and jokes. People often expect counselors to just nod their heads, look concerned, and say things like “And how does that make you feel?” or “Tell me more about that.” I certainly say those things sometimes, but I’m also very active in the session, asking pointed questions, exploring ideas, and offering my insights. I also provide information about how the mind works and teach mindfulness techniques that clients can use in their lives outside of the therapy office. You won’t necessarily have to talk about your childhood or past relationships, although it can be helpful to look at those experiences to notice patterns.
How is counseling different from just confiding in a friend? Why should I pay someone to listen to me talk?
With a counselor, unlike with a friend, you don’t have to worry about “being too needy” or being judged. You don’t have to worry about whether you’re hogging the conversation or not being a good friend. You don’t have to worry about whether your secrets are going to become gossip—a counselor is required by law to protect confidentiality. Counselors also have advanced training and clinical experience in identifying what is healthy vs. unhealthy, “normal” vs. abnormal. As a counselor, I have years of practice in specific ways of listening, empathizing, and caring, and I can teach you concrete tools that you can use to relieve suffering and create lasting change in your life. I may also give you something to work on between sessions, whether it’s a book to read, a new behavior to try, or just something to think about.
Am I required to be really motivated and have it all together before I can be in counseling?
I really enjoy working with clients who are highly motivated and ready to do the work that their goals require. I have some clients who are like that, and we make good progress together. But not all my clients are in that position right away, and that’s okay. As long as you’re willing to be honest with yourself and with me, I can help you. Part of my role is to help you find what motivates you to make progress on your goals. I help my clients understand themselves and their challenges more clearly by seeing the fears, needs, and unacknowledged desires that hold them back. I help them see the choices they have to make and the sacrifices those choices involve. When they’re ready, I have tools and techniques to help them get through the hard parts of those changes. But it all depends on their readiness and willingness to do the work.
Who decides what the therapeutic goals are, me or you? How soon will I start to see improvement in my problems?
Counseling is always collaborative with me. I’m happy to work with clients toward almost any goal. When I make suggestions, it is always based on what the client has already told me about what they want. How long it takes to achieve goals depends entirely on the goals themselves and your readiness for change to happen. I’ve had clients show improvement or noticeable progress almost immediately, and I’ve had clients for whom it takes months to begin moving toward their goal. But almost everyone feels better in some way within the first couple of sessions. When you are with someone who listens well and truly cares about your concerns, you will feel more confident and less alone.
Do I have to tell you my entire life story the first time I meet you? What should I do to prepare for the first counseling session?
You will be in control of what you share during our first meeting, keeping in mind that it’s helpful for me to understand the context of your concerns. I want to know about your motivations, your hopes, your needs, and the things that have so far been holding you back. I’ll also be asking questions about your fears and concerns related to the counseling process, and about things that might make it difficult for us to make progress together. To prepare for the first meeting, I encourage you to think about what you want to get out of our work together. When the work is finished, how will you be different? How will life feel different? What are you hoping that our work together will accomplish that you haven’t been able to achieve on your own? What is motivating you to make these changes now?
Will I be able to tell right away if you’re the right counselor for me? What happens if one of us thinks it isn’t a good fit?
Yes, you’ll know very quickly if I am the right counselor to work with you. It’s almost always obvious during the initial consult whether it’s a good fit, at least in terms of the relationship itself. On occasion it becomes clear after a few sessions that the client needs a practitioner with different skills or tools, and if happens, I try to help them find the right person to meet that need.
Will I have to do a ton of paperwork before we meet the first time?
I do a free consultation the first time I meet with a prospective client, and I will use this time to do a basic assessment of your needs and goals. During this first visit, I will also offer you a sense of who I am and how I’m going to approach your goal or problem. Between the consult and the first real session, I will ask you to fill out some paperwork that includes an intake questionnaire. The questionnaire gathers information about different parts of your life and helps me have a better sense of your general health, habits, relationships, interests, and other significant aspects of your life.
What would I gain from working with you specifically instead of another therapist? How are you different from other counselors in Denver?
I have an unusually varied background and life experience that enables me to build a relationship with my clients easily and quickly. Research shows that this relationship between the client and the therapist is the most important factor in making counseling effective. I’ve lived in a lot of different places, including overseas as a child, and interacted with people from many different cultures. I’ve also done a number of different things professionally over the course of my life. I adapt myself to my clients so that they feel comfortable, understood, and respected, regardless of whether they’re a CEO, a musician, or a plumber. I believe in the effectiveness of insight-based, motivational counseling that offers real tools for change.
Denver life coach, counselor, and therapist Gideon Killion shares some thoughts about make friends and improve your relationships.
Modern life can feel really lonely sometimes. It seems like we’re connected 24/7 to social media and our phones, but somehow that doesn’t always translate into a sense of being truly connected with others.
If you’re feeling a social disconnect and want to forge new friendships in real life, you may not be exactly sure how to begin. Here are some suggestions to get you started meeting new people.
Connect through Shared Interests
One of the most effective ways to make like-minded friends is to pursue an interest or hobby that involves other people. Whether you’re into foosball tournaments, car shows, or martial arts, there’s sure to be a group or event near you. Or you could take a class to try out a new skill, like improv or beginning guitar. I learned the hard way that many people are put off or intimidated by direct invitations to become friends. But friendships develop naturally when you’re doing things together.
When you find yourself in a social situation and aren’t sure what to say to someone, it always helps to get curious about them. Most people enjoy talking about themselves. Look for clues in their conversations about what they’re interested in, what they like to do, and what’s important to them so that you have an idea of where to start. If there are no clues offered, ask open-ended questions such as, “What do you do for work?” Then encourage them to provide more detail by asking a follow-up question like, “How’d you end up in that career?”
Build In Time to Meet People
We have a tendency to over-schedule ourselves these days, always rushing to the next meeting or errand. This makes it unlikely that we’ll have time for genuine interactions with anyone outside our usual sphere of work and home. You can change this by deliberately building in time around your activities so that you can meet and talk to people. Arrive early for appointments so that you have an opportunity to chat with someone in the waiting room. When you’re planning a trip to the gym or the grocery store, schedule some cushion time before and after so that you can start up a conversation if the chance arises.
Listen More, Talk Less
In a one-on-one conversation, it’s ideal to be talking about 40% of the time. This is the perfect ratio because it means you’re mostly listening, but you’re also doing enough sharing of your own that the other person can get to know you. If you find yourself talking more than this in a conversation with a new acquaintance, you can shift the balance by asking them a question.
Keep It Positive
Do as little complaining, criticizing, or arguing as you can. It’s also a good idea to keep sarcasm or dark humor to a minimum until you really get to know someone. (This is a place I often over do it!) Even when you do know someone, it’s wise to keep it balanced. Most people want to spend time with someone who is pleasant and positive overall. If you make someone uncomfortable by going too negative, they may avoid hanging out with you in the future.
Share Things Slowly
It’s great to find friends we can be honest with about things that are difficult. On the other hand, it’s tempting to dive in way too soon. Do share your troubles, but wait until you’ve developed some trust. Plan to share at first in small doses, and try to give the other person the chance to do the same with you. It should feel like an even exchange, and the amount of detail or heavy emotion you share is generally going to be comparable to the length of time you’ve known someone.
Pay Your Own Way
This is a simple one, but it’s one that many people overlook, and it’s powerful. In short, always pay your fair share at restaurants, parties, and so on. People will remember if you don’t. Along the same lines, it may feel awkward to new acquaintances if you offer to pick up the check, since the social norm is to stay on equal footing with people you don’t know well. The safest tactic is to expect that everyone will split the bill.
Check Your Skills
If you’re not sure whether your behavior may be a little off, ask for feedback about your social skills from people you know and trust. Tell them you’re looking for constructive criticism so that you can improve anything that might be scaring off new friends.
Remember that It’s Hard for Everyone
Sometimes socializing is just going to feel awkward. Those awkward moments don’t mean you’re doing it wrong; they just mean you’re human. It happens to everyone, even folks who are good at it.
If you think you might need more in-depth assistance with social skills or other friendship issues, give me a call to learn whether counseling or coaching at one of my Denver offices would be able to help. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy learning (sometimes the hard way) how we make and keep friends, and I’d love to share what I’ve learned with you. Contact me to arrange a free consultation and find out how I can help.
Bruce Springsteen was not always in control of his life. The Boss reveals in his memoir, “Born to Run,” how he struggled with depression at different periods. He admitted going through a difficult time while making “Wrecking Ball,” his 2012 album. He described the feeling as a ”freight train bearing down …” and added that he saw his first psychotherapist three decades ago.
Recognizing the Problem
The first step toward resolving any kind of problem is admitting that it exists. This does not come easy for most men because it implies a submission to defeat. Hopefully, Springsteen’s revelation would encourage more men who feel isolated and stuck in life to get men’s counseling. Denver clinics like ours offer specialized counseling that addresses your specific struggles at home, at work — life, in general.
The Boss’s disclosure is important because it highlights a few issues about men. One, men do struggle with depression. Two, the struggle will not always manifest in an obvious way. And three, getting support is not a weakness, but rather a decisive action to regain control of life.
Your problem does not need to be as distressing as Springsteen’s. But it is still disruptive to your relationships and your routines, and keep you from reaching your goals. Without any person to talk to about your struggles and the general anxiety you are feeling, the weight of it all will crush you eventually. Seeking counselling of life coaching will prevent something in your life from giving in.
Let LifeCraft help you figure out why you are feeling the way you are feeling, and how you can get back on track. I can talk you through the process and help you regain control of your life. Call me about my services or schedule a session today.
Many men have a feeling that something is missing, or have a longing for something more. Some may even have a sense of what is missing, but feel trapped by commitments, responsibilities, or practical realities. For others, though, the dissatisfaction, unfulfillment, or stuckness shows up in symptoms like anger, depression, anxiety, or addictions.
If you struggle with some of these things, it may be a sign that you have an unacknowledged and unmet need. By identifying what is missing or needed, and figuring out how to find it, you may end up resolving other issues.
Sometimes we hesitate to ask for help on problems like this. I get it—I’ve been in that place of not wanting to admit vulnerability or struggle. I thought I should be able to handle it on my own. What I came to realize is that there are so many other areas of life where we enlist help to get us where we want to be, from finances to fitness. It just makes sense to save time and frustration on personal struggles, too, by collaborating with someone who can provide a better toolkit for getting what you want.
I know what it’s like to feel stuck, and to know that change is needed but not know what direction to move in. That personal experience is part of what led me to begin providing therapy for men in Denver. I’ve taken on a personal quest of sorts—to figure out not only what I needed, but what most men need in order to be happy and fulfilled.
This is not to say that we can or even should get exactly what we want. But, to borrow an idea from the Rolling Stones, we can usually get what we need. Yes, each of us is unique, and we don’t all want the same things. But most of our desires are representative of deeper, more basic and fundamental needs that all humans share.
In fact, I’ve created a list of 10 fulfillment factors to summarize those fundamental needs. This list is distilled from significant influences that have shaped my approach to counseling for men, including Sebastian Junger, “Tribe”; William Glasser’s “Choice Theory”; Daniel Pink’s book “Drive”; and the work of Tony Robbins.
The 10 Fulfillment Factors:
- Belonging (to be part of a group)
- Purpose (bigger than yourself; or meaning)
- Significance (to know you matter)
- Identity (to know who you are)
- Mastery (or competence)
- Control (or autonomy, power, freedom)
- Stability (or certainty, safety)
- Variety (or uncertainty, fun)
- Love (to be someone’s priority)
- Hope (that the future is as good or better than the present)
Once these basic needs are understood, it is much easier to figure out how to meet them. You could get there on your own with years of work. Or you can take the direct route to a fulfilled and purposeful life by enlisting a professional helper.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- Do you find yourself fantasizing about a different career, or even a different life?
- Do you feel trapped or held back by some part of your life?
- Are you disappointed in how life turned out?
- Do you feel like you were made for more than this?
- Do you sometimes wonder what the point of your life is, or whether you matter?
- Do you wonder why you aren’t as happy as other people seem to be?
If you’re not satisfied with your life, and you aren’t sure why (or what to do about it), or if it’s something you’ve tried to change and haven’t been able to, then it may be time to let someone help you. Click here to learn more about counseling or life coaching for men in Denver.