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Introduction to the Counseling Process

Perhaps you have been thinking about coming to counseling or someone has suggested counseling to you. Perhaps you have already decided to seek counseling, but you're not sure what to expect. This document is designed to answer some basic questions you might have about the counseling process.

What is counseling? How is it different from just talking to my friends, family or other people who work at my college?

Counseling takes place in the context of a helping relationship in which the counselor and the client work together to resolve a problem, change behavior or foster personal growth and awareness.

Although you may have a number of helping relationships with friends or family the counseling relationship is different in a number of ways:

  1. The counseling relationship is not reciprocal. Your counselor's job is to focus on your concerns and to offer you support and encouragement. This is your time to focus on yourself.
  2. Your counselor is a trained professional who has spent several years learning about different ways to help you resolve your particular problem.
  3. The counseling relationship is confidential. Whereas with your friends or family, you might hope that they will respect your privacy, your counselor is ethically bound by confidentiality. Unless you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, your conversations with your counselor will be private.
  4. You can always depend on your counselor to meet you at your set appointment times.

How long does the counseling process take?

There are times when a client may have a very specific question or concern that can be resolved quickly in one or two sessions. Often, however, this is not the case. Something may have been troubling you for months or even for years. In that case, it may take a longer time to build a trusting relationship with your counselor and to resolve your problem. You and your counselor can talk over what your goals for counseling are and how long it will take you to achieve these goals.

Does information about my being in counseling go on my college record?

All the information gathered by your counselor stays within the counseling center. No information is released without your written consent, unless you are an immediate danger to yourself or others. Even if you do become a danger to yourself or others and information is released, it will still not appear on your college record.

What can my counselor do for me?

Although your counselor will not and should not tell you what to do, she or he will assist you in generating solutions to your problems and concerns. Also, your counselor will be a caring and attentive listener, which many clients find helpful in and of itself. In addition, your counselor can be an advocate for you within your college, contacting deans or professors on your behalf, whenever necessary or appropriate.

What if I don't think that counseling is helping me or I don't "click" with my counselor?

The counseling process often takes time. Therefore, it is probably not realistic to expect that your problems will be solved after one or two sessions. Because counseling is a process, it is wise to give it a few weeks before you decide it is not working for you.

However, if after a few weeks, you continue to feel that counseling is not helping, or that your counselor has not made a good connection with you, there are steps you can take. You can speak openly and candidly to your counselor about these concerns. Your counselor can alter what he or she is doing or refer you to another counselor. If speaking directly to your counselor is too uncomfortable, you can ask the secretary of the counseling center to set up an appointment with another counselor.

For more information about the counseling process, contact your college or university counseling center.

Resources:

Iona College Counseling Center  (914) 633-2038