Spring has arrived, and with that – we thought it was the perfect time to revisit the idea of a “fresh start” and how counseling can change your life. The holiday season is now long in the rearview mirror and the new year is in full swing. The end of a year can be a time of family, of celebration, and of reflection. However, the beginning of a new year can often be a time for considering change. It can bring reminders of struggles from the past: a loss, unhealed wounds, fear without end, the unforgiven or out of control, or a sense that something is missing or wrong within. A new year can also bring hope for a new and better today or future. Thoughts of making a fresh start may occur in a fleeting moment: daily ruminations or prayers, or some sort of existential longing. The desire for renewal is ever present, but what it looks like, where to begin, and how to make it happen can derail plans for change. Not having a specific and achievable plan for growth can be a lot like traveling to an unknown destination without the benefit of a reliable guide or a map. And when it comes to personal change and growth, counselors are professional guides for individuals on their journey to self-renewal. Let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions about counseling to see how counseling can change your life!
What Is Counseling?
Formally, counseling can be defined as a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals (American Counseling Association: Consensus Definition, 2020). In other words, counseling can be thought of as professional assistance with personal matters. While people may have some idea about investing money, most would think it prudent to seek the expertise of a financial professional to get the most bang for their hard earned bucks. Likewise, when it comes to investing in one’s self, a collaborative partnership with a professional counselor can pay invaluable and enduring psychological dividends.
What Is A Counselor? Do They Prescribe Medication?
Counselors are considered helping professionals. They typically have a masters or doctoral level of education plus several years of supervised practice while working to become licensed as independent practitioners. Counselors also take a certification exam and meet requirements set by a regulatory body. In the state of Alabama, the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling is that supervising and licensing body. Counselors do not prescribe medication. Psychiatrists who are trained as physicians are qualified to prescribe medications.
Why See A Counselor?
A common misconception is that someone sees a therapist to find out “what’s wrong” with them. But it is more accurate to view the counseling process as the means to understanding “what happened to you” and how you got this far on your journey through life. Common reasons people come to counseling are:
- Life Transitions
- Job Loss
- Loss of a Loved One
- Low Self-Worth
- Spiritual Crisis
- Personal Growth
What Will Counseling Be Like? How Can Counseling Change Your Life?
The first step is making the call to schedule an appointment. At that time, you will fill out some forms and provide information about yourself and reasons for seeking counseling. At the initial session, you and your counselor will have an opportunity to get to know each other and you can ask questions about the counseling process in general and discuss what you hope to accomplish. Individual sessions are typically scheduled for an hour, and time will be taken to establish a trusting and secure relationship in the service of creating a safe space for self-discovery. Once you and your counselor have finished the initial or intake session, you will collaborate on your treatment plan. Your treatment plan serves as the “roadmap” to achieving the goals that will lead to your personal sense of renewal. The treatment plan lets you and your counselor know when you are ready to continue your journey on your own.
There is an old joke that goes something like, “If two frogs are sitting on a log, and one has a notion to jump off, how many frogs are left?” Caution, corny punchline ahead: Two! The frog only “had a notion” to jump off. When a plan for change stalls, it is common to chalk it up to lack of discipline or will power, or even personal fault or failing. More often, it is simply a matter of understanding what obstacles keep us stuck in notions. Like the frog in our story, this can keep us feeling like the same old bump on a log in the same old bog. So take a chance on renewal, make the leap. Remember the best time for a new beginning is now!
What If I Have Tried Counseling Before?
Fresh starts are exciting, aren’t they? That feeling of starting anew, wiping the slate clean, and beginning again with a fresh perspective is invigorating. But let’s face it, fresh starts may require restarts, many times – MANY MANY times. Think about it. When you start something new – whether it’s a new job, a new relationship, or a new hobby – there are bound to be hiccups along the way. You might make mistakes, encounter obstacles, or simply realize that things aren’t working out the way you planned. But that’s okay. Dr. Ashley Garrett, PhD, LPCS, RPTS, ACS talks about this at great length in counseling and supervision. “Restarting is a natural part of the change process. In fact, it’s often necessary to restart in order to make progress. If we keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results, you’re bound to be disappointed. Restarting doesn’t mean giving up or admitting defeat. It means acknowledging that you need to make some changes and trying again with a fresh approach.” Counselor Ben Lighter, MA, ALC (under the supervision of Megan Campbell, LPCS) says “Sometimes those changes are tiny, like tweaking your approach to a project or adjusting your communication style in a relationship. Other times they’re much bigger, like changing your career path or ending a toxic friendship.” Whatever the case may be, restarting can be a positive and transformative experience. It allows you to learn from your mistakes, adapt to new circumstances, and grow as a person.
If you have found yourself already messing up your “fresh start” we encourage you to embrace the idea that restarts are part of the process. Don’t be afraid to try new things, make mistakes, and pivot when necessary. With each restart, you’ll get closer to where you want to be, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you had the courage to keep going. As you can see, counseling can change your life. If you are looking for a counselor to assist you in your fresh start, our team of counselors is here to support you with offices in Boaz, Huntsville, Jacksonville, and Jasper, as well as telehealth options. Contact us today to learn more!
This article was written by Clint Reeves, LPC, Dr. Ashley Garrett, PhD, LPCS, RPTS, ACS, and Ben Lighter, MA, ALC (under the supervision of Megan Campbell, LPCS) – mental health professionals at Garrett Counseling in Boaz and Huntsville, AL.
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.) Introvert. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/introvert
American Counseling Association. (2020, March). 2020 Consensus Definition of Counseling, https://www.counseling.org/about-us/about-aca/20-20-a-vision-for-the-future-of-counseling/consensus-definition-of-counseling