I am like the poster child of getting counseling. Seriously, in the last few years I have been to four different counselors. I’ve done individual sessions, group sessions, marriage counseling, I’ve done it all. But I realize that for some Christians, the idea of going to a counselor is a little weird. Which is funny, because we’ll go to premarital counseling but then not go again until our lives are on fire or some horrible catastrophe. I’m not going to convince you to go see a counselor though. What I am going to do is give you the tips you need to have a successful counseling experience:
1. Prepare an answer to the question “what’s the nature of the visit?”
Sometimes, the admin will ask you some form of the question, “why are you coming?” I think that’s a horrible thing to do because basically someone has finally broken free of their fear to be real and honest about some pain and the admin is the last person they want to share their junk with. But it happens, and when it does go ahead and generalize your response. I told counselor #3’s admin that I was coming in to discuss “work issues and marital communication problems.” That was true, but it was definitely the G version my junk.
2. Don’t show up too early.
Your goal is to spend the least amount of time in the lobby of the counselor’s office. The longer, you wait, the longer you’ll have to do awkward head nods with other people that are leaving from other counseling sessions. And the magazine selection always sucks. I think this is on purpose because if they had great magazines you might get happy in the lobby and feel like you could cancel your appointment. So instead they offer “Golf Digest” from 1987 and “Saltwater Trout Fishing Digest.”
3. Read the magazines while you’re waiting.
Most counselors tend to run about 5-10 minutes late because the person before you is always a rambling narcissist. In many cases, that person might be me. My sincere apologies. But when you’re in the lobby, you want to stay busy to avoid the “I wonder what that person is in here for” game. Don’t stare at the other people and try to analyze what life crisis brought them to the lobby. Grab whatever magazine is nearby and read deeply, unless an addiction to salt water trout fishing is ruining your marriage. In that case don’t read the magazines.
4. Let’s not talk if we see each other at IKEA.
The other day while looking at Glokgs and Rnijyds for our living room at IKEA, I noticed a guy from one of the counseling groups I took part in. We didn’t know each other’s name but we definitely recognized each other. And I was sweaty for a hot minute until he gave me the quick, “Hey, I know you get counseling and so do I but let’s not chat” head nod. It was beautiful. It was fast. It was perfect.
5. Judge your counselor.
There are some whack counselors out there, so I recommend judging and analyzing them closely. For instance, there are a handful of books that if I see on the shelf in my counselor’s office that scare me. Like say, “Shock Therapy.” You don’t want your counselor to be a huge fan of shock therapy. Or a book titled, “Why the man is always wrong” or anything from the Every Man’s Battle series. And if the office is messy that’s not a good sign either. If he can’t put together his work environment how is he supposed to help put you back together. I find a beard to be a good sign. There’s something wise about a beard. Mutton chops however are not a good sign. The easy way to remember this is, “A beard is not weird, chops means stops.” See, that’s pretty handy.*
Those are just a few of the tips I recommend. I would love to hear yours.
And if you need a good counselor in Nashville, Atlanta or Birmingham let me know.
*Lady counselors are awesome too but for them, the beard rule is just the opposite. A beard on your lady counselor is not a great sign.
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