What is Counseling/Psychotherapy?: What to Expect


Will they make me lie on a couch? Will the counselor hypnotize me? How will the session go? Will they read my mind? How many sessions will I need? Will they think I’m crazy and diagnose me with some serious mental illness? Will they record me? Most people get their information about what counseling/psychotherapy is, and the characteristics of a good counselor from movies and television shows. Some show an accurate snippet of what counseling is, others can be described as a crime against the profession. Below is some information to shed more light on what counseling/psychotherapy is. 

Educated Inference vs Mind Reading

One of the questions psychologists and counselors hear too often is “Can you read my mind?” If that were possible, mental health professionals would probably be the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world. Okay, now that we have cleared this up, let’s move on to why this misconception exists. Mental health professionals are trained to pay attention to all forms of communication from their clients – verbal, vocal, and non-verbal. We pay attention to appearance, body language, tone, facial expressions, words, etc. This is then combined with the information our clients give us. We notice patterns of behavior and anticipate them. As a result, we are usually better able to tell people things about themselves that they assumed others did not know. 

Facilitation vs Instruction

Mental health counseling/psychotherapy is not a place where you are told what to do or given microwave short-term instructions to fix your problems. Most counseling you receive from friends, family, or religious bodies involves instructions on what you should do and how you should do it. The majority of the time, the outcomes, if positive, are short-lived. Other times it backfires completely. In mental health counseling, the therapist works with you to find the answers you are looking for, that serve your unique situation. Counselors believe that though the client may be struggling, they are quite capable of problem-solving and just need a nudge in the right direction. When a client can solve issues with the support of the counselor, the client feels very fulfilled and empowered. 

Empowering vs Handicapping

Have you ever confided in someone and received a reaction that felt judgmental and demeaning? Questions like “How could you let that happen?” or “If it were me, I wouldn’t have…” Counselors do not believe in and do not use such responses. Counselors can highlight areas of strength where you and others often fail to. Our goal is for the client to get to a point where the client no longer need us. Yes! Believe it or not, mental health professionals are not in the business of “locking you down” so that you are a constant source of money. Once a client learns healthy tools to navigate their life’s issues, they can decide to stop seeing a counselor. Some people use counseling to resolve specific issues and stop once they feel ready to. Others choose to continue counseling as a form of support they can go to at regular intervals.

Humanizing vs Rigid Diagnosing

Some people fear the thought of seeing a counselor because they may receive a severe diagnosis. Stigma is common within mental health. Most good therapists are not eager to diagnose you because of this and other reasons. We show you that your condition is often a normal response to difficult situations when you do not have access to a healthier alternative. Seeking the help of a mental health counselor does not mean that you have severe mental issues and are “crazy”. Even if you end up with a clinical diagnosis, you will not be treated poorly by your counselor.


Hopefully, you gained some valuable insight into what counseling/psychotherapy is from this article. Because counseling/psychotherapy is voluntary, I recommend that you try it at least once. Perhaps this information will help you decide to seek the help of a mental health professional if you need one. Or maybe you can share this information with someone who needs to talk to a professional. One thing I hear from my clients is “I never knew counseling/therapy was like this. More people need to do this.” So please share this article with your friends and loved ones. You do not know who you may be helping by doing so. 

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