Stepping into Counseling

COCM encourages use of the employee assistance program provided by Behavioral Health Services. Many people have never been to counseling for a variety of factors – access, cost, culture, fear, and lack of information. I am going to use an analogy to help you get in step with the benefits and some tips to counseling.

As I age, choosing shoes has become a chore. I need different shoes for different activities – slippers, sneakers, flip flops, dress shoes and work site boots. Shoes fit in the morning but my feet swell during the day and shoes become uncomfortable. Yet, I still need to wear them in public.  My work site boots are heavy and not cute. However, I need to wear them to honor OSHA regulations.  My slippers and flip flops feel the best but they do not give me the most support.  My dress shoes look good but are worn infrequently.  My running sneakers are the most used and provide the most miles. Even those change based on whether I am walking, running, or playing a sport.

I need to financially budget to purchase quality shoes so my feet do not suffer.  I need to find space to store my shoes so I do not feel disorganized. I am not a fashion diva so I have to rely on others to tell me if the shoes are ugly or too old looking for me.

Choosing a counselor is like shopping for shoes.

I could buy my shoes online but I learn by seeing and touching so I shop in a store for shoes. My budget is a factor too – I might want a pair of Golden Goose but cannot afford those and need to buy Brooks (don’t know Golden Goose – Google it). When I buy shoes, I try them on in the store and wear them at home for a few days before deciding if I keep them.

I must choose a counselor that meets my needs. I share personal experiences and want someone who provides support, stability and challenges me while making me feel safe. It is OK and expected for you to have a consultation or a few sessions with a counselor before choosing to work with them longer term. You may meet a few counselors before finding the right fit for yourself.  Counselors run the gamut between degrees, certifications, and life experience. You may choose someone like you or someone very different related to age, gender, faith, etc. You may choose someone based on their availability, location, and cost. 

Despite my Master of Social Work degree, I had to accept that going to counseling does not make me weak, broken, or shamed.  I had to learn that counseling does not automatically result in a medical diagnosis, medication or last forever. I had to learn my friends and family are great but they cannot be unbiased and do not have the training to offer tools / tips for me to be better.  I had to learn that life experiences are difficult but we are not expected to accept those times and suffer. 

There are no right or wrong reasons to go to counseling.  Some people have a specific trauma while others seek relationship help, stress management, self-confidence, focusing help, mourning the loss of a loved one, addiction issues and just needing a safe space to be heard and valued.  It is wise, healthy, and brave to seek counseling services.

COCM offers an employee assistance program managed through Behavioral Health Services (BHS).  You contact BHS directly through a phone call (1-800-245-1150) and confidentiality share your needs with the representative. They will help you schedule an appointment. You are offered three free sessions.  During the first session, see how the counselor fits and ask follow-up questions about on-going cost, insurance coverage,  schedule, etc.  They also utilize the AT&T Language Line that will assist if you need help with another language.

If you want to talk more about how to choose a counselor or need a nudge of encouragement, feel free to reach out to Tara Wilkinson at: TWilkinson@cocm.com or 205-414-6449.