How, When, and Why to Consider Counseling, Part 1

Seeing a mental health professional can be liberating in ways you may never have imagined. However, because mental health services are very personal and require you to open up and expose the real person you are, they can also be uncertain at minimum and frightening to the max.

Before you undertake any opening up of your life, I have outlined some clear steps you can take to fast-track the process and avoid common errors.

Getting an Objective Opinion

Many people erroneously believe those closest to them are the best “shoulders to rest upon.” However, often such closeness fails to provide useful perspective because enmeshed emotions can prevent the true clarity of thought needed for pro-active, useful action.

A highly skilled professional not clouded by personal relationships can provide the opportunity for you to see perspectives you may have ignored, denied, or simply not considered.

Counseling is an opening up of the overall communication flow and provides a means for you to see situations clearly and act on viable options in a safe and non-pressured environment. Keep in mind that any counselor you see should have the proper credentials and certifications.

Asking for Help

The largest stumbling block for many people—particularly males—is believing outside assistance is a sign of weakness of one’s core character. Going to counseling is a conscious and willful act of the individual. No one can or should force that solution upon an individual.

Counseling provides an objective “outside-in” assessment. Understanding your emotions through an objective assessment keeps them from running your life in directions counterproductive to your long-term happiness.

Sorting out emotions is a lifelong process, but as the famous Chinese saying goes, “The longest journey starts with the first step.” Getting professional help can make the difference in getting the ball rolling in a positive way.

When to Consider Counseling

Consider counseling if you experience prolonged feelings of sadness, irritability and anger, anxiety, insomnia, “over thinking,” the inability to concentrate, and loss of interest in activities that once gave you a sense of satisfaction. This is especially true if you find these states are affecting your ability to function and create strained relationships at work and with friends and family.

Next week: Part 2 on how to make the most of counseling sessions.

Celeste R. Winberry, LCSW, serves as a consultant on mental health issues for a range of health service organizations. She lives in Clifton, N.J., has over 25 years experience in the field, and can be reached via