Don't weather the storm of emotional pain alone

Counseling is a gift you give yourself.

Emotional pain takes on many different forms as mind and body attempt to endure. Everyone’s experiences and responses are unique, much like the variation between individual snowflakes. In times of need, there are those of us who seek the help of a professional in order to successfully navigate the tempest of life’s emotional challenges.

Counseling benefits those who are suffering by providing structure, emotional support, empathy, encouragement, community resources when needed, and even occasional guidance. An opportunity is created to process pain and loss from past and present events.

In addition, counseling is a secure and confidential place where people are able to give voice to unhappy and painful aspects of their life experiences. Many report that information shared in counseling has never been shared before.

When life events such as divorce, job stress or parenting problems trigger an intense emotional response –– a response the person feels unable to cope with –– counseling is available. Even positive lifestyle changes such as marriage, a new job position or the birth of a child can feel stressful. Through the process of counseling, clients are better able to recognize defense reactions, anxiety and repetitive relationship patterns.

Defense or anxiety-driven behavior occurs when people feel overwhelmed and unable to function. Additionally, none of us want to continue making the same relationship mistakes hoping for a different outcome.

If you are unsuccessful finding a therapist, then by all means try again. Educational background, therapeutic approach and even personality are all factors that will influence your level of comfort with a therapist.

Research shows that female as well as male clients express a preference for female therapists. This preference may exist because most of us were raised by female primary caregivers, thereby creating a more natural communication of intimate or personal information with females.

Choosing a therapist is not unlike selecting a dentist or physician. Priority should be given to finding a professional that you feel connected with and able to share honestly, ensuring that you will be able to make the most of your therapeutic experience.

There are several ways to find a therapist. The first option would be word-of-mouth. Talk to family, friends and co-workers to receive recommendations in your community. Secondly, if you plan to use insurance coverage, then call your insurance carrier and ask for a list of paneled providers or search on-line and download a list of out-patient mental health providers in your area.

Those of you who choose to use insurance should spend some time researching your benefits before you schedule an appointment. Ask your insurance representative questions about exemptions, deductible, co-pay and how many sessions are allowed per calendar year. Another option would be asking the human resources department in your company if they offer an employee assistance program for counseling services. Many companies offer this service, but employees are uninformed or don’t know how to access these services.

Help is available for those who need it. You don’t have to weather the storm of emotional pain alone. Take advantage of the opportunities available to you in your community and discover the gift of counseling for yourself.

Jennifer L. Gray, Ph.D., is a private-practice psychotherapist who provides individual, couple and family counseling. She can be reached at 653-0168 or Psychotherapy Associates, Parklane Executive Center, 31620 23rd Ave. S., Suite 318, Federal Way, WA 98003.

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