In my time as a counselor, I have found myself disliking the broad question of: “What brings you to therapy?’ I find this question sometimes creates a wave of nervousness or pressure for the client. While it is certainly important for both the therapist and client to ultimately collaborate on goals and seek direction, I do wonder if it is necessary to explicitly ask this question during the beginning sessions.
Truly, I believe humans seek therapy for many reasons. A common misconception is that something needs to be terribly wrong or that daily functioning needs to be severely impacted. Being in crisis or hitting rock bottom does not need to be what drives someone to counseling. I believe that it is acceptable to not fully know where to start when pursuing therapy. Perhaps talking with a therapist will foster feelings or thoughts about what might be salient to you as a person in therapy. People seek counseling for many reasons and at all different seasons of life. Maybe therapy can even be looked at as preventative care after experiencing trauma, loss, or a life transition.
Something I have shared with my clients is that it is okay to change their mind on what they would like to work on. It is also okay to come into session without a specific agenda or topic; there is no pressure. On this note, here are some reasons why people might seek therapy.
What would you add to the list?
- To learn more about themselves or their family of origin.
- To help manage work or school stress.
- To process situations with a non-judgmental, accepting, and trusted individual.
- To learn communication, conflict resolution, assertiveness, or organizational skills.
- To navigate stressful relationships or friendships.
- To seek support for life milestones that feel difficult to complete (driving, moving out, getting married, etc.).
- To find safety and connection after experiencing trauma.
- To gain different ways of thinking and enlist mindfulness about food and their body.
- To explore hobbies and interests with someone who will listen.
- To grieve painful relationships with family members.
- To make decisions and resolve accompanying ambivalence.
- To learn how to be kinder to themselves and to feel empowered.
- To understand how to set boundaries and to regulate the emotions that follow.
- To explore their gender or sexual identity in a safe environment.
- To process the reality of their lived experiences as a person part of a marginalized group.
In all the above items, it is valid to simply want to feel seen, supported, and heard. After all, that may very well be the heart of much of my therapeutic work.
If you need support and would like to speak to a professional counselor about topics such as the one featured in this blog, and are in the Chicago area, please contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.
Written by Liz R, Staff Psychotherapist