Just one week ago, I went to a counseling session that is offered through Winona State. I didn’t really know what to expect and I didn’t plan what to say, but I knew my reason for going. I don’t have any diagnosed mental disorders, but I understood that my feelings needed to be heard by a professional. If you are thinking of visiting a counselor, for whatever reason, then just keep reading to hear about my first experience!
Over Thanksgiving break, I had enhanced feelings of anxiety, nervousness, fear, and loneliness. I know that it’s normal to have these feelings in certain situations, but I knew it wasn’t normal to have them at this time or to this extreme. And I certainly knew that it didn’t feel good. Read a bit about it here!
After a couple months of thoughts, continued feelings of anxiousness, and lots of journaling, I created an idea of my triggers in the back of my mind. It wasn’t until this counseling session that I fully determined what my triggers were. These feelings came and went. I didn’t know how to control them, but I did know how to pray. The feelings were minuscule during Winter Break, but I knew I didn’t want them to come back as I transitioned back into the dorms. Taking initiative, I called WSU Counseling Services and set up an appointment for the day after my arrival. Perfect. At first, I was super excited to encounter this experience that so many have had before. I was amped to finally get in control of these pesky feelings. But as the clock got closer to my meeting time, I got into a mood. A mood that was a bit of nervousness mixed with dread.
I checked in and took a mandatory questionnaire about my mental history and such. My counselor called my name and he lead me to the room. The first thing I noticed was that there were three different chair options for me to sit in. Why does this matter? Well, it really doesn’t. It was just something that I noticed. He started off with stating confidentiality policies and then asked me what I wanted out of this. I said I wanted to decrease my feelings of anxiousness. I told him when it all started and he asked questions throughout.
I finally understand people who say it’s hard to go to therapy or counseling. I used to understand that it’s hard to talk about the past or of traumatic events, but I had never experienced it. I also didn’t expect to open these “healed” wounds again. And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy! I felt like crying, just after 30 minutes of having a slightly-vulnerable discussion; I felt like getting up and leaving. I didn’t want to open up. I actually had many thoughts, responses, and answers, but I held it in because I seriously didn’t have the strength to speak about it…just yet.
But one thing that took me by surprise was how much my counselor talks. I used to think of counseling as letting the client speak, and the counselor simply listens, nods, and takes notes. My counselor asked questions that led down paths a friend wouldn’t have taken. Does that make sense? I feel like this professional knew what I needed to let out. So in return, he had to ask a question to lead me there. He gave me helpful tips on how to cope with racing thoughts or a pounding chest, which was expected. What I now realize is that I don’t know myself as well as I thought I did. There were multiple questions he asked that I said verbatim, “I don’t know how to answer that.”
After our 45 minutes, I felt prepared to take on life again. I also had questions. Questions for myself that I don’t know how to answer. And that, my friends, is the point of counseling. The point of counseling is for a professional to help you find the answers to the why’s, the methods to cope, the lies in your head, the start of it all. The counselor is there to help you understand yourself in order to better yourself.
Like I said above, this is my reflection on my first, and only, counseling experience. I can only imagine how difficult future sessions will turn out to be. I can also imagine the relief and comfort that comes shortly after. Even if you also aren’t diagnosed with any mental disorders, sometimes talking to a friend or parent isn’t enough. I encourage you to seek out a counselor or therapist to prevent those little stumbling blocks from creeping into your life.