"Do I need counseling?" and how to get started
Updated: Jan 12, 2019
I know that first steps into the unknown – starting a new job or school, learning a new language or even just going to Bürgeramt for the the first time – always feel a bit like walking into a cave full of mountain trolls. That's why I'd like to somewhat de-mystify the process of getting started with counseling, to help you better understand if counseling is right for you, and what to expect from the first session.
"Do I need counseling?" Only you can answer that, but I'd like to gently suggest rephrasing this age-old question. The way it is phrased seems to imply (or, seems to be interpreted this way by many): "Is there something wrong with me? So wrong that I can't fix it myself? Am I a mental case now? etc. etc." So I suggest asking yourself rather this question: "Would I benefit from counseling?
And to make it even simpler, I would break that into 2 components:
1. Is there some aspect of my life in which I would like to achieve change? Some area in which I would really like to see progress, but that does not seem to be happening?
2. Do I believe that there is something that I myself can do about that thing written in Point 1? (Or, on the contrary: I believe that what I want is fully dependent on external factors such as good luck, the behavior of others, etc?)
If your answer to both points is "Yes!", then I do believe you would benefit from counseling. And I hope that the above questions also help bring the topic closer to reality: no, going to counseling does not mean that there is anything "wrong with you". It means that you want to achieve progress in your life, that you would like to achieve change for the better, and that you are willing to invest your time and money into the bettering of yourself. Is there "something wrong" with you if you invest time and money in a gym membership, in order to achieve the fitness level that you would like for yourself? Or if you go for regular dentist check-ups? Don't think so. And if it's important to look after your body, then why would it not be equally important to look after your mind?
When you honestly think for yourself about question 1, please consider this. The most common topics discussed in counseling are actually the everyday topics of life. For instance: I've been single for a long time and can't seem to find the right person, or I am recently not happy in my relationship, or I have just recently moved to Berlin and have difficulty getting used to it, or I am not happy with my job but don't what to do next and am also afraid to take the next step, or I love my job but still, I am constantly stressed and have no idea how to handle this stress and anxiety, and the list goes on an on. These are quite everyday topics, right? Still, these are the topics that keep most of us awake at night, and we may realize at one point that we've been trying to understand, to find the solution, try this way or that way, and still, we can't seem to be getting ahead. In that "point of pain" is where counseling could help you discover – and then also take – the next step.
As to Question 2, I think there is a very important point in our process, and that's when we start realizing, that we can actually do something about changing things that we want to be changed. Some examples of these turning points:
"For years I've been looking for the right partner, I guess I'm just not lucky. There are no normal single people left in this city. It's only the crazy ones that are left" – when this mentality starts shifting, and you start realizing that there may be a pattern in there, that you seem to come across people who are not right for you, or not to notice the people who are right, in short: when you start realizing, that there may be something that you can change in, in order to then be more successful on your mission – that is that turning point.
"My boss is horrible. He hates me. I also had a terrible boss previously. He treated me horribly. And my teachers in school didn't appreciate me either" – when that starts changing slowly, and you start noticing that maybe it is not only about the other person's behavior, but it is also about how you have been interpreting signals, and that you could actually achieve more balance and harmony, even in your work relationship by working on yourself – that is a turning point.
"I am always worried about the next steps. I want to achieve something, and then when I'm there, it seems normal, and then I move on to worry about something else. I never seem to feel really calm or content. I always feel stressed. I guess that's just how being an adult feels like." – when you start considering that perhaps adulthood could also be happier or more relaxed, and that perhaps it is not that next deadline that is really the only cause of your stress, but that you can actually do something about it: that is also a point where you can assume that counseling could be beneficial. When you suddenly realize that you've been doing things in a certain way and would like to change the pattern, then counseling can help you discover alternatives that you haven't noticed before.
→ I invite you to read more about my general approach and methodology here.
If you decide that the time has come for change, and you would like to have a chat with me about that, then the further steps are really quite easy and stress-free. Once we have agreed on the appointment (and of course, I provide you with all information about getting there, parking, etc.), we meet up for a first consultation session. This is a free session for you and it requires no commitment whatsoever from you. I do not do shortened, 20-30 minute consultations, as I really like getting to know each other well, and I prefer comfortable, reassuring, relaxed first meetings, so they usually last 60-75 minutes. If you prefer, we can also do this session online (in that case, I provide you with access details to a secure videoconferencing application online) – and then, if we decide to start the process, can start the meetings in person from the next occasion. As mentioned earlier, I also offer long-distance (online) counseling in case you are outside of Berlin or too busy to travel – check out more details on that here.
The first consultation session requires no preparation from you. I will ask you to talk about yourself and share whatever you feel like sharing. The goal of this first talk is for us to identify, and narrow down on a precise counseling objective, and that is something I will help you get to with helping questions. Once that is clear, I will also talk about myself, the approach and methods I suggest – and then we can discuss all other practical aspects from scheduling through payment options to data protection. And if we're both comfortable with starting to work together, then we will agree on the next steps (more on what to expect in your first counseling session here).
As said, I know that starting anything new can be scary, and I hope this post has helped clarify some aspects of counseling that may have been unclear so far. I encourage you to drop me any further question you may have, and I will either expand this post, or answer them in the FAQ section of this website. And if you're ready to take the next step, feel free to get in touch and book a free first consultation.