Helene Beddingfield, RN, ATR, LMFT
Individual, Couple and Family Counseling
If not now, then when? Seneca
Making the decision to participate in therapy can initially be intimidating or at least confusing, but there are a few steps you can take to make yourself an informed consumer. Therapy is something you are doing for yourself and the more information you have about the process, the better place you are going to be to make the choices that will work best for you. Your initial telephone call to a therapist could provide you with important information if you prepare beforehand  a list of questions about  the issues you would like to work on and the therapist's experience.  Most therapists are willing to give new clients some consultation time for an interview on the phone and to allow an opportunity to get an impression about whether you both will feel comfortable working together.  Below is a resource, "Make the Most of Every Session" that I highly recommend you read. It covers pretty much everything you might think of asking and more. 
"Make Every Session Count" by John Preston, Psy.D, Nicolette Varos, Ph.D and Douglas Liebert, Ph.D is an easy to read and informative resource that will assist you with your decision about therapy, your choice of a therapist, treatment methods, medication and the importance of your active participation in therapy.  It is available as a free download from IPE E-books at freepsychotherapybooks.org.


Individual counseling is one-on-one between client and therapist, although there are times through the course of therapy that it may be beneficial to periodically invite family or significant others to sessions to expand the perspective of how other influences are affecting the individual. 
    There are a wide range of reasons for seeking therapy from situations in which the stressor is obvious to depression and anxiety that seem to come out of no where or as in PTSD, incidents that occurred a long time ago, yet are affecting current functioning.
     Most therapy is short term, usually ranging between one to twenty sessions. There are conditions that warrant long term therapy, such depression, bipolar or anxiety unrelieved by meds and chronic conditions that on-going therapy may be useful in preventing relapses. Counseling can also be pursued for personal growth and insight.
     The course of therapy has a beginning, a middle and an end. A perspective to see this more clearly is to think about:  What is your current situation? What are you hoping will be different? How will you know when it is better?  The work of therapy is bridging the way from where you are now to where you want to be. How long it will take to meet your goals may be difficult to tell in the beginning.  What you will be looking for are positive changes that you are taking home and applying to real life situations and you are recognizing that your symptoms are less or alleviated and you feel better about who you are and your ability to manage your life. This includes holding onto your authentic self-- the 'real' you even when you are faced with influences that may have made it difficult for you to maintain a clear sense of yourself in the past. 


      Couple counseling can be the most  challenging and the most rewarding. Most couples wait until they are really having a hard time to make an appointment. Resentments have a way of festering so that what the present crisis seems to be about has shades of many past, unresolved issues that were seldom dealt with or repaired.  
      Most couples start out with the best intentions. Most partners think that their love is going to be different and that they are going to make it and the sad part is that their intentions really are good and they sincerely want to aspire to be the best partner they can be to their spouse. No one is really prepared for the reactivity or resentment that happens when we don't now how to accept and respect our differences. 
       Couple counseling involves taking two perspectives and clearing the space so that each individual perspective can be heard and validated. Most couples are doing somethings right and that needs to be recognized and stroked. Even if what you hear your spouse say is close to understanding your issues then you know that he/she has been listening.  Starting out with what the two of you have done right so far at least lays a groundwork for possibility. Learning new ways of relating to each other takes trust, time and practice. 
      Since we live in real time, going back over the details of fights and disagreements is just practicing what you do not want to do. Instead of focusing on what went wrong last time and rehearsing a scenario that you do not not care to repeat,  look at the situation in a different way--like doing a 'Take 2'  envisioning the outcome with the changed scenes is a rehearsal for how you plan on doing it the next time and is more likely to ensure that the change sticks.
      Do you remember hearing Einstein's saying  "Crazy is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result." Unfortunately we are creatures of habit and more time than not, we  do repeat a sequence of behaviors that did not work last time and will not work when repeated either. Many couples repeat the same argument pattern hoping for different results.  Learning to interrupt that pattern is essential so in session you will get to practice how to argue in a way that will result in both of you being heard and respected even if it is to agree to disagree. 

Premarital Couples 

     Divorce statistics  are currently at 42% for first time marriages, but the Marriage Foundation sites divorces among remarried couples at an all time lower rate at 31%.  Perhaps this is because people who are marrying for the second or third time are more aware. Having been through a regrettable experience they may have more motivation to 'think before they leap' and for the previously married they are also aware of all the pain a divorce can cause and are more willing to work through problems in subsequent marriages.
     When we fall in love lines blur and for a while all our efforts are looking at the things we have in common. This limerence period can last up to 18 months or longer and for many of us it is a surprise when we start to see our loved one in a different light. This is not necessarily a bad thing and can be used as an area for growth in learning to recognize and respect our differences. Because this change is inevitable,  premarital counseling can provide  a way to view the possible future from a more realistic perspective. If we can look at the influences that may affect our interactions-- like the modeling we received from our parents, habits developed in previous relationships and the way we learned to protect ourselves when feeling threatened, a  preventative course of action  can be rehearsed that will provide an awareness to act differently than the knee-jerk reaction (coming from history) which we do without thinking.  Learning how to identify and respond in a rational way can keep resentments to a minimum or at least allow for recognizing when it is happening and do the necessary repair work. 
     Not discussing how to handle tough situations can lead to resentments that left without any repair will sabotage the best relationships. Nothing is more regrettable then how two people who love each other very much can describe unresolved resentments that go back decades. Ignoring this stockpile of resentments slowly erodes the foundation of even the most loving of relationships. Coming up with a plan for 'if/when that happens' is much easier because the plan is coming from forethought and prevention rather than a  fight-flight-freeze reaction that is geared toward defensiveness at whatever the cost. 


     Families now a days come in many configurations.  The usual stay at home Mom, working Dad and kids type family is now the minority, while step, blended, multi-racial, cultural, religious and same sex families are  part of a typical family scene.  All families have their struggles and the configuration of the family unit is not what causes challenges but how the family members deal with the challenges.  
     Most of us can readily admit that arguments among close family members-- the ones we love the most are by far more intense than disagreements we have with friends or work and school peers. This 'letting it all out' or the opposite not talking at all can cause hurt and resentment that left unresolved compounds in a cumulative way.  Having the whole family attend sessions can be an effective way to deal with issues that seem to escalate without resolution. Family work is usually a solution-focused, short term therapy dealing with a particular issue that is affecting the whole family.