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  • Writer's pictureYvette E. McDonald, LCSW-QS

How Does Counseling Work?

People seek counseling for many different reasons. Counseling may include individual, group, and/or family sessions. Counseling, however is very much a process!

Counseling (or therapy, psychotherapy) is the process of meeting with a therapist (or counselor) in order to reduce internal suffering which occurs in the form of problematic behaviors, beliefs, feelings and somatic responses (sensations in the body). In addition, ongoing psychotherapy is a useful means of self-growth and self-discovery. It is meant to help you build coping skills to be able to handle negative experiences and emotions. Together with a counselor, you will learn, grow, explore, unpack and understand yourself, your world your suffering and your experiences with new perspective, insight and clarity.

Therapy can also help people to resolve barriers which interfere with positive qualities such as joy, compassion, peace, self-esteem, spiritual connection and love. Many people enjoy therapy and relish the journey of becoming more conscious about themselves, their inner world and their relationships. Therapy can also be an effective tool in overcoming the effects of trauma and abuse.

Therapy isn't a scary place for crazy people...... It's a safe space for people who want to be their very best self. ~unknown

You and your therapist will meet together weekly for 45-minute sessions. Therapy is best done with at least an 8-week commitment. We find that clients who cannot commit to at least 8 weekly sessions and meet less than weekly tend to have more difficulty in establishing a relationship with their therapist and often spend their sessions recapping the previous weeks instead of focusing on forward movement (but there are exceptions). Despite the 8 week recommendation the process and therapy is a unique process and is discussed during the intake and assessment phase. After 8 weekly sessions, you and your therapist can discuss the movement toward your treatment goals and whether reducing sessions to biweekly or terminating therapy is the next step as this a process that is very personalized to everyones unique situation.

Intake & Assessment 1-3 Sessions

During this initial sessions, you will meet with your therapist to define the counseling relationship, discuss the details of informed consent and begin the rapport building process. Your therapist will gather information about you and your biological, psychological, and social history and how this is impacting your current situation.

You will also discuss the goals of therapy going forward together. This will additionally be a time in which we discover your potential areas of strength and improvement.

During this time we will also narrow down treatment goals, defining what our time together will be. We will help you to create a personalized person centered plan tailored to your specific needs and what you would like to change.

This time is all about gaining clarity about the process you are about to embark on by defining your WHY and creating a plan to move toward your aspirations and desires. Learn more about this concepts of finding your Why at


Together, in each subsequent session, your counselor will give space for you to be able to talk and work through the sitaution, problem, truama, grief or stressor that brought you to counseling. The counselor will use various strategies depending on their training that may involve DBT techniques, CBT, art therapy, Gottman Therapy and homework that promotes healthy communication, emotional expression, improved problem solving skills and much more.

Therapists at Traveling Light focus on providing a safe and comfortable place for you to process and discuss your heart and mind. During our work together, you will learn skills to help you navigate the twist, turns and pitfalls in your life.

Phasing Out

In your final sessions, you and the therapist will review the treatment goals to ensure you are satisfied with your counseling experience and that the work with your therapist has met your expectations and needs. We will discuss the progress toward your goals and decide if we need to change them, ad new ones, do away with some or terminate counseling. This is the time you will hear the questions "Why are you still in therapy?" and "Why are you coming weekly?".

Sessions will be staggared as we prepare for termination. This is a time to make sure that you are ready to start the next chapter of life with more independence and can effectively utilize the skills and tools learned in sessions.

Termination: Final Session

In your final session, you and the therapist will review the treatment goals to ensure you are satisfied with your counseling experience and that the work with your therapist has met your expectations and needs. A relapse prevention plan will be discussed in addition to ways to effectively implement all you have learned outside of session.

What's my role as a client?

Your main responsibilities are to attend your scheduled individual and/or group sessions with a commitment to learning about yourself, how you relate to others, and how you can make changes in your life to reach your desired goals.

Giving thought to what you would like to gain from counseling is important in setting those goals (an early step in the process). While your counselor may assist you in formulating your goals and developing a plan for meeting them, you will benefit most from entering counseling with a commitment to actively making positive changes in your life. You may find it helpful to note cirucmstatnces, relationships, or events in your life that are troubling or create problems for you. Your counselor may ask you to consider the process by which these situations negatively affect you and may encourage you to try a new startegy or to experiment with different approaches to help you achieve the positive change you are seeking.

For counseling to be most effective it is important that you are willing to challenge and stretch yourself to follow through on implementing the strategies and skills you are learning.

Open communication is important to forming an effective partnership with your counselor. Let him/her know when problems are improving as well as when you don't feel like you are making the progress you desire.


Yvette E. McDonald is the owner and counselor at Traveling Light Counseling, a practice for individuals, couples and families helping them discover the person/couple they were always meant to be, as they become the best version of self in their roles and relationships in the Port Saint Lucie and Martin County area. She has hand-picked each clinician based on their specialty. With a goal to build a team that is the top in our area.


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