Thanks to wellness screenings, annual physicals, routine dental visits and eye exams, going to the doctor has become quite the norm in our country.
Yet, lingering societal barriers, taboos, and personal excuses still prevent far too many of us from investing in our mental health.
Instead of seeking a trusted counselor or therapist, we find comfort and ease in making dysfunction our modus operandi and the place we call home.
However, mental illness is not something to be feared, but rather something to prepare for. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of American adults will experience mental illness during their lifetime, which means you or someone you know will need professional help in developing and maintaining their well-being amid life's hardships and personal issues.
Although we often associate mental illness with severe disorders such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder, its scope is so much broader. From Anorexia to Depression, from ADHD to Insomnia, mental illness includes all conditions that affect our mood, thinking, and behavior.
Similar to a physical ailment, the best time to address mental illness is not when a situation becomes a crisis, but when you first have a concern. An even better solution is preventive action. This involves taking advantage of wellness training before a problem arises to learn techniques that are proven to boost mental health, emotional intelligence, and resilience.
In the last 2 articles, we highlighted signs of anxiety in adults and youth. To help you identify other matters that often need counseling or therapeutic support, we have created resource guides for concerns that involve both children and adults.
Also, we are aware that identifying a mental health professional who is a proper fit for you can be equally as challenging as the problem you are facing. Listed below are the top 10 characteristics found in trustworthy counselors or therapists.
A trustworthy counselor or therapist knows how to take a pause - They prioritize self-care and their families. Instead of booking clients back-to-back for 12 months, they take daily, weekly, and quarterly breaks to disconnect, detox, and dedicate time to their own health and wellness.
A trustworthy counselor or therapist maintains boundaries - Because their role and tenure are clearly understood, they will not be on-call to put out their clients' 9-1-1 emergencies and they will not enable clients to be dependent upon their counsel forever.
A trustworthy counselor or therapist is devoted - They will not leave you hanging, but will remain communicative and respectful throughout the entire therapeutic relationship. Although they will not always be available at a moment's notice, they are committed to their clients and are genuinely concerned for their well-being.
A trustworthy counselor or therapist is present and attentive - During their sessions with clients, they are not finishing up on their notes or checking messages on their iPad. They are fully engaged and aware of their client's presence and needs.
A trustworthy counselor or therapist is prepared - They review and recall what you shared with them prior and know what needs to take place during the next session to help increase your level of self-awareness and personal growth.
A trustworthy counselor or therapist gives constructive feedback - They don't just listen. They help clients process the situation and connect the dots in the absence of clarity.
A trustworthy counselor or therapist is assertive - They call out your contradictions and defensive behavior, challenge you to possess a growth mindset instead of playing the victim, and forewarn you of the consequences and risks of your choices.
A trustworthy counselor or therapist puts their client first - They meet you right where you are in your journey, and utilize every session to equip, challenge, and encourage you to maximize your God-given potential.
A trustworthy counselor or therapist empowers - They do not make decisions for you. They provide client-focused education, information, and resources to help you reach your counseling/therapeutic goals.
A trustworthy counselor or therapist is human - They will not let their clients put them on a pedestal. Through limited, appropriate, and helpful disclosure, they will give indications that they have overcome issues in their lives and that they are still growing.
Once you have found a counselor/therapist to consider, it is time for you to do some research. Choosing a professional to delve into your soul and analyze your mind should never be taken lightly or without careful contemplation. Take ownership over your therapeutic process by asking questions during your initial consultation. The more information you gather, the better chance you will have in finding a counselor/therapist that is safe for your heart.
Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that the success of your counseling experience will primarily be contingent on your willingness to be open, honest, transparent, and teachable. If you are dishonest, self-diagnosing, self-medicating, secretive, resistant to truth and change, a know-it-all, and always play the victim, you are not ready to unpack your heart. However, when humility and courage to receive wise counsel interconnect, miracles happen within the inner being, fixed mindsets are broken, and your best life begins to play out because you have finally decided to make your mental health a priority.
Felicia Matthew, MA, LPC