When you have to wait for counseling

Having to wait for counseling can be really frustrating. A little more frustrating that waiting for your mocha at the coffee shop.  This blog is on what you can do while waiting.

Don’t lose hope.  Having to wait for counseling can be really stressful because often the situation that prompted you to email or call for counseling can be a crisis that is affecting your family or marriage.  If you’ve been putting off going to counseling, struggling with emotions or behaviors or communication for awhile, if you’re in pain and things feel out of control and unmanageable – not being able to be seen can make you feel even more desperate or upset.

Maybe you’ve just discovered porn on your husband’s laptop.  Or your daughter’s started to cut herself and talk about suicide.

Things don’t have to get worse in the meantime, they can even get better while you wait.

I recorded a Periscope video on this.  I missed a few key resources and ideas I wanted to share so here’s a blog that goes more in depth.

Here’s a few reasons why you may have to wait for counseling and some suggestions for each.

1) You want to start counseling but your counselor isn’t available. Sometimes the counselor you’d like to see doesn’t have openings in their schedule or their appointment times don’t work your schedule.

2) You want to do counseling but it’s too expensive.

3) Your insurance won’t cover counseling at all, or it covers it but not as frequently as you’d like.

4) You don’t know who you want to see.

5) You aren’t sure if you want or need counseling.

6) You’re ready for counseling but your partner isn’t ready or they don’t want to go with you.

Here’s a few suggestions for each situation.  Try a few of these and by the time you meet with your counselor you’ll be able to dive right in and hit the ground running.

1) Take action on what you can.  (If you are in crisis or struggling with suicidal ideation – call the 800-SUICIDE crisis line, call 911, call your medical provider and ask for emergency psychiatric services or get someone to bring you to the local ER or urgent care. )  The situation doesn’t have to stay the same or get worse.  You may already know what you need or want to do.  If the counselor you would like to see isn’t available, you may be able to learn more about their approach to counseling by reading their website.  I started this blog for clients and friends and try to post info to help with the topics and problems I meet with people about. Your counselor may have a blog or website where they share resources and info.  Besides here, I post articles on relationships and mental health at the A New Day Counseling Center Facebook page.

You can also ask for a referral to another counselor.  If the counselor you’d like to see isn’t available they may be willing to recommend a colleague or another counselor who could help.   I recommend my friends at A New Day Counseling and the student interns who are training here.  There are also several counselors in the Portland and Vancouver area who are doing good work that I recommend.

2) Consider low cost counseling resources.  At A New Day Counseling we have interns who can meet with folks for $10 a session.  Sometimes asking your employer or human resources department about counseling resources may help, there may be an Employee Assistance Program available. Addendum: Sunnyside Counseling here in Portland also has interns who can provide care for $25 a session.  If you know of other counselors who provide sliding fee scale or discounted rates, feel free to comment below.  Your church may also be willing to help defray the cost of counseling for a limited number of sessions, ask your pastor or church leader if that’s a possibility.

Consider pastoral or lay counseling or coaching. Some churches provide free or low cost counseling and/or coaching and mentoring.  You may not need counseling.  I like to describe the difference between coaching and counseling this way.  Coaching can be like a personal trainer at the gym.  The help you set goals, encourage and push you to go from good to great or okay to good.  Counselors use many of the same tools and techniques but they can be more like a physical therapist.  They help you with goals and problem-solving but they also focus on repair, treatment, therapy and healing a problem.  Coaches tend to focus on the present and future. Counselors do that but they also explore the past more, as needed.  I’ve been trained both as a counselor and a coach.

Consider peer and group support.  I didn’t say enough about this in the Periscope video!  Some insurance plans or medical groups may not provide counseling weekly or at all but they may have groups for treatment or support.  Three A few other types of groups I didn’t mention are Celebrate Recovery, NAMI, Griefshare, DivorceCare, For Men Only and Refuge groups locally.  There are also groups for dealing with pornography and sexual addiction locally.  There are twelve step groups for alcoholism, codependency, drug addiction, overeating.  All can be beneficial and offer support; one of the hardest things about making change or struggling with emotional and relationship issues is feeling isolated and alone.  Groups help and I often recommend groups for my clients who I meet with in addition to meeting with me.

3) Consider meeting with your primary care provider for a medical evaluation for anxiety or depression.  They may recommend a trial prescription for medication that may be helpful for what you are experiencing.

Your insurance plan may also provide online resources that can help with mental health topics.  If you are a Kaiser member, there are self-help resources to learn more about the Mind Body connection, the process of change and improving communication.  There are also support programs for Stress, Overcoming Depression, Overcoming Insomnia. There are guided imagery and relaxation podcasts that can help you with anxiety, pain and insomnia.  You can also call the Health Coach team to enroll in free coaching for stress management.  Some Kaiser members use health coaching to supplement their counseling. They get additional support on the phone between their office appointments with their mental health providers.  If you don’t have KP insurnace may provide similar resources: groups, online resources, online coaching or phone coaching.

4) Write down what you want counseling to change.  Learn how to describe what you are experiencing.  Write down what is happening: Inside you and outside of you.  What are you hoping will be different?  Different counselors have different appoaches to therapy but they often involve changing how you feel, how you view yourself, your self-talk, how you are currently experiencing life, your patterns of behavior and communication, the way to relate to others.Investigate.  Read a few counselor’s bios. Ask others who have been to counseling who they might recommend. Read more about mental health topics online and on social media.

5) Learn more about your problem. One way to take action is to start to learn more about what you are struggling with.  Once you start articulating what you are going through you can start to narrow down defining the problem and solutions.  There are online assessments that can help you narrow down the problem.  You don’t want to get too locked into a specific “diagnosis” until you meet with your counselor but you can start to learn and read about mood disorders like depression and anxiety, you can start to learn more about healthy conflict resolution and communication.

Gaining more understanding, awareness of your feelings and insight about yourself and how you impact and relate to others are the skills of self-awareness and emotional and relational intelligence.  You may be able to make improvements on your own. If the struggles are impairing your work, your relationships – if they are longstanding, pervasive and perpetual – if they aren’t getting better on their own or if they get better for awhile but then come back, it might be time to try counseling.

Start writing down your story.  Start looking at who you are and what you’ve been through.  If it’s too hard to this on your own, that’s okay.  Go slow.  Writing it down helps you get clarity, decreases how big the problems and the past are in your head and heart.  What’s the script?  What are your core beliefs and family rules?  What is the metaphor, the word picture you have for life or your image of yourself?  After you learn how describe what is happening see if you can make connections and identifying the patterns and triggers in your life.  All of this work can be painful.  It can also be a relief to start to face it.  Writing down and facing your story can start to heal and free you up from any destructive patterns and the hold your past may have on you.

6) Give yourself permission to work on yourself.  Often, getting counseling, working on your healing, boundaries, growth areas, mood and stress – your stuff – can help your marriage or relationship because if you get healthier you influence and impact your partner.  Marriages are a system, if you change you change the dynamics and the relationship.  If you change your steps in the dance, if you change your lines in the script, you can change your interactions, your patterns and viscious cycles.

I often recommend the books Boundaries, Boundaries in Marriage, Boundaries with Kids and Love & Logic.  Each of these books give principles that can be helpful in communication and relationships.  The authors’ website has video advice for a number of emotional and relationship topics.

I hope this blog will help you if you are in the gap of wanting to start counseling and starting.

I will blog soon more on how to explore your past, present and future.




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Licensed professional counselor and health coach in Portland, OR Pre-marital and couples counseling. Individual counseling for anxiety, depression, insomnia, sleep disorders, sexual addiction, porn addiction, career, transitions, grief, burnout, personal growth.

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