by Stacey Schmid, LMHC

The past two years have highlighted some of the best, worst, and most unimaginable aspects of humanity, causing many to seek mental health counseling.

Asking for help is the first step toward making a change for the better and choosing the change you want for yourself, but seeking mental health counseling is not an instant fix. Your counselor should be viewed as a guide to walk alongside you and hold the map you create. Your role is to follow that map as it develops and evolves, deciding where you want to go, what route to take, and how to draw the map. The counselor is there to help you determine what steps to take, and to support your journey.

Counselors cannot walk this path for you. But really, would you want them to? Every step in the journey through your life has a purpose and brings you to where you are today. That is not to suggest that everything that happens is positive. There is something to learn from everything, even if we learn that we never want to replicate an experience. Through the process of learning, we are improving ourselves to be the best we can be.

Today, there are many options for counseling, including face-to-face, video chat, or phone.  Some counselors even travel to their clients’ homes. The choices have expanded due to growing needs and expanding capabilities. As a community, we are seeing an increased need for services for people of all ages, from youth through older adults. Whether it is feelings of anxiety, depression, symptoms of trauma, or other persistent mental health issues, seeking mental health counseling and support is the first step toward acquiring positive coping skills and acknowledging and working through emotions or symptoms that cause distress. 

Working with a therapist provides the opportunity to see things from a new perspective and learn how to address stressful issues, face difficult or scary things, and receive positive feedback. Defining goals and how to achieve them are some of the choices individuals make in deciding to pursue counseling. Some of the skills people achieve through counseling include positive communication skills, being more assertive, setting boundaries, grounding techniques to better cope with anxiety and depression, staying in the present moment using mindfulness exercises, and identifying short-term and long-term life goals.

There is no one answer for everyone in counseling, and no one technique or treatment model is a fit for everyone. Counselors and techniques vary just as much as the clients who walk through the door or call on the phone. This is what makes the process so powerful, and why it is so important for each person to receive the help they need in drawing their own map. 

Stacey Schmid, LMHC is a Mental Health Clinic Manager at Jewish Family Services of WNY.