Over the years, I have met countless people who are convinced that counseling does not work. Either they’ve tried it or know someone who did, and it didn’t work for them. How can this be true when the research says otherwise? The truth is that effective counseling yields results- better mood, more energy, more fulfilling relationships, improved ability to manage stress… the list goes on. So where is the disconnect?

The unfortunate truth is that not all counselors are effective. There, I said it. As I interact more and more with people who have been in counseling, the more I realize this to be true. There are counselors out there who offer little more than emotional support and venting for their clients and some that do less than that.

If you are one of those people who has been to counseling and not found it to be helpful and continue to struggle, I plead with you not to give up. There is hope, and there are good counselors out there. With that in mind, here are 3 reasons counseling may not have worked before:

  1. You did not have a good connection.

    The therapeutic alliance, or relationship, is the cornerstone on which all other work is based. If you feel a lack of connection with your counselor, it is unlikely that you will experience much, if any, positive change while working with them. Before you schedule your first appointment, you should call and speak to the counselor and get a vibe for who they are and whether you feel they are the right fit for you. No counselor is going to be the right fit for every client, so don’t settle if you don’t feel confident that the counselor can help you.

  2. The counselor lacked appropriate boundaries.

    The counseling relationship is a professional one. While you should feel comfortable with your counselor, it should not feel like they forget that you are their client. If a counselor spends a lot of time talking about themselves or their own problems without a clear therapeutic purpose, it’s likely they have poor boundaries. While self-disclosure can be an effective means of building rapport, it should be limited in its use. Also if they seem distracted or do things that lead you to feel that they are not respecting your time, it’s time to find someone new.

  3. The counselor wasn’t trained to help with your particular issue.

    There are counselors out there who advertise that they have 15 years of experience when they really have one year of experience that they have slowly forgotten over 15 years. Yes, it is required for counselors to maintain continuing education hours in order to renew their license every few years. This does not guarantee that they are getting the training that they need to help you. It’s important that you find a counselor who is specialized in the area that you need help in the most. So how do you know if a counselor can help you? Call them. Ask them. Read what they write. Do they seem to be an authority in the field and know what they are talking about? What is their treatment approach or theoretical framework from which they practice? It’s scary to me how many counselors claim to be a jack-of-all-trades or “eclectic”. When a counselor says they use 17 different treatment approaches, they are really just taking a shotgun approach to counseling and hoping that something hits the mark. It’s just not effective.

If you or someone you love is struggling to get out of bed in the morning, having difficulty maintaining positive relationships, burdened by fear or anxiety, or just not getting as much out of life as you would like to, give me a call. I would love to talk to you further. If either of us feels that I cannot help you, I will happily refer you to someone who might. I am not the right counselor for everyone, but I might be the best counselor for you.