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It is difficult to ask for help sometimes, especially when that help comes in the form of counseling. There are so many factors to consider before starting the counseling process, and I was hesitant about it before I started. This is my counseling journey

My Background
I was assaulted in a church in 2015, and I saw this person nearly every week. Seeing him so often wore me out, and my parents weren’t supportive about how it felt to see him. Before I started counseling, I processed these feelings through journaling and sharing with the people I trust.

At the end of 2017, I noticed that my parents consistently invalidated my feelings, especially when these feelings were unpleasant. This realization brought up sadness, anger, and other intense feelings that startled me. In a way, it was a grieving process. I was grieving for the relationship I thought I had with my parents.

Thinking About Counseling
I had been thinking about counseling since the beginning of 2018, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to talk about my struggles. I wrestled with this idea for the whole of 2018. At the end of 2018, I had to see my assailant multiple times over the holidays. By the end of the year, I was exhausted. I wanted to see if there were other ways to cope with this.

A few weeks later, I looked into the counseling services at my university and decided to do an initial evaluation session. During this session, I met with a counselor and talked about why I wanted to start counseling. She got straight to the point, which was unnerving. Yet she validated my feelings, and I felt truly understood. That motivated me to continue the counseling process. She gave me suggestions for what to do when it came to seeing my assailant, such as writing an action plan, surrounding myself with supportive people, and giving myself time to feel everything after the service. At the end of the session, we came up with a plan that worked for me, which was to attend individual counseling sessions every two weeks.

Individual Counseling
I learned so much through individual counseling. My therapist gave me a lot to think about, which helped me heal in certain ways. Here’s a list of what I’ve learned and done with the help of individual counseling:

  • My counselor validated my feelings and told me to focus on myself instead of my parents’ reaction. This helped me validate my own feelings.
  • She provided an alternate perspective about my parents, which was that it may have been difficult for them to see me in pain. It took some time, but I was able to understand the reason behind my parents’ reaction without excusing their behavior. 
  • My counselor helped me realize that my parents’ behavior is emotional abuse.
  • She reminded me to surround myself with supportive people, which helped me revive a friendship. Our friendship is stronger than it was before, and it’s been great.
  • She told me to stop and think before jumping to conclusions. This has helped me so much in the past year.
  • With my counselor’s help, I reported my assailant to CPS. 

Since these were university services, I was limited to 1-6 sessions during the semester. After that, the counseling center recommended group therapy. I didn’t feel ready to do group therapy, so I took a break from counseling for a semester. At the end of 2019, I saw my assailant multiple times and struggled with how I was feeling. I thought about counseling again and decided to look into group therapy.

Group Therapy
At the beginning of 2020, I looked into the various groups offered at my university and chose to sign up for dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT focused on many topics, including mindfulness techniques, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, assertiveness, and self care.
During group, I struggled with sharing sometimes. I didn’t want to dominate the conversation, and it was difficult to be vulnerable in front of a group at first. It took some time, but this got easier the longer I was in the group. I heard other people sharing their experiences, and I was able to relate to them. As a result, I shared more of my experiences and got more out of the group.

I liked DBT a lot because it presented concrete steps to take in various situations. It’s important to practice these steps, and I am still practicing. So far, these steps are improving my well being.

How I Feel Now
Starting the counseling process was worth it, and I hope to do long term therapy in the future. Now I understand that my parents’ reactions are based on fear. They don’t feel they’re in control, which scares them. It doesn’t excuse what they’ve said and done, but I can understand them better. I know that I can break this pattern – for myself and for the people around me. It’s still difficult to see my assailant, and that’s valid. It’s easier for me to validate my feelings, and I have more ways to cope with the situation.

I would like to conclude with a few important things to remember:

  • These are my opinions about counseling based on my experiences, and I do not speak for everyone.
  • Counseling does not solve everything, but it can help us take steps in the right direction.
  • You can start counseling if/when you’re ready to take that step. You can take as much time as you need to make this decision. Do what is best for you and your healing!

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