Feeling Blue This Holiday? Counseling May Be Just What You Need


Counseling could be the best gift you ever give yourself.

The holidays are among us and this time of year many individuals suffer with holiday related depression and anxiety. For many, the holidays cause an exacerbation of the depression and anxiety that they face throughout the year, as a result of day-to-day stress and fatigue. Mental Health America (formerly known as the National Mental Health Association) suggests that while factors such as shopping and parties may increase tension, family reunions can also contribute to elevated stress levels during the holidays. For others, the thought of spending the holidays without loved ones they've lost can increase their symptoms of grief.

One's mental and emotional stability is very important in the maintenance of their physical and overall health. Learning to cope with stress and anxiety that can lead to depression is critical to this stability. Sometimes counseling can help an individual develop coping strategies to overcome these symptoms. Counseling can also be a great vehicle to developing a stable, healthy support system. Counseling, though, is a new concept for many individuals and the "unknowns" of what to expect can be scary, leading many to not seek the help they need or want. So, how does one choose a counselor and what should you expect during counseling?

Counselors use a variety of different methods to help those they serve. It's important to understand, however, that not all methods are a good fit for all people. Your counselor should be somebody you like, respect, and trust as well as someone who likes and respects you. Don't be afraid to "shop around" until you find a good match. Talk to perspective counselors on the telephone and ask questions about any concerns you have. While a counselor may treat a variety of different problems, it's important that you seek help from someone who treats your specific kinds of problems. After all, a person with diabetes would seek a diabetic specialist and not an orthopedic specialist. Though both are physicians, they treat different problems. Find out whether your perspective counselor has expertise dealing with the particular issues you're facing.

Once you start seeing a counselor, they should inform you of their practice policies (e.g. costs, scheduling/missing appointments, methods of therapy, length of sessions, etc.) during the first session. They may also ask you several questions about what led you to seek counseling in an effort to determine how to best assist you. Counseling can last anywhere from a few sessions to a few years. Though six to ten sessions is pretty common, the amount of time you spend in therapy depends on the type of issues you're dealing with, as well as your own preferences. You should feel like you are making some progress within the first few sessions. If you don't feel as though you are being respected or that you do not "click" with this counselor, you may want to consider trying someone else. Don't be afraid to change counselors. Sometimes it takes a while to find somebody who is a good fit for your needs. So be patient. It's worth the effort. It is your life, your time, and your money and you deserve the best possible experience. Why? Because you're worthy and you're worth it!

Dr. Dionne Bates is a licensed therapist. Please visit her at www.drdbates.com or Twitter: @SelfSOULstice