There are many ways to get help. Deciding what type of help you need is a good place to start if you haven’t decided yet.
Individual counseling is exactly what you’d think: You sit individually with a counselor of some type and work on your life as an individual. Typically, the first session will be an intake where the professional will try to cover at a high level why you’re coming in. Each practitioner has their own way of conducting the first session, but it’s essentially used to orient each person to the other. After your first session, you can typically expect 45– to 55-minute sessions that explore your presenting issues in more depth. The way problems are addressed will depend on each counselor’s approach.
You guessed right. Couples counseling involves you and your partner sitting with a professional who will help you work on your relationship. A couple’s counselor is trained to help with your relationship dynamics and communication. The intake process will likely be similar to that of individual counseling but with a focus on the relationship, not on each individual’s problems (though these inevitably will come up). Session lengths are also likely to be similar to those of individual counseling, 45 to 55 minutes.
You’re getting good at this. Family therapy involves the entire family, or as much of the family that’s willing to participate. Common issues that may be addressed include communication problems; family members trying to work out the death of a patriarch or matriarch and the subsequent financial and emotional problems that emerge; the effects of divorce; a recent adoption; or how the severe and persistent mental illness of a family member affects the entire family. Many events and circumstances can lead a family to seek family therapy. Like the other therapy types, family therapy will have an intake process and then follow-up sessions. Because of the larger number of participants, sessions may be longer than individual or couple’s sessions. It’s reasonable to expect a family therapy session to be 60 to 90 minutes in length.
You nailed it. Group counseling sessions center on a particular problem that everyone in the group shares. The problems can deal with many topics: PTSD, eating disorders, domestic violence, video game addiction, or any other issue where people seek help and support as a group. Group counseling sessions are different from support groups in that they’re led by a professional. Support groups may be formed by people in the general public who may have specific training to lead the support group but may or may not be professionally trained as a counselor.
Addictions can include alcohol and drug use but also gambling, shopping, and other compulsive behaviors. Many times, addictions counseling is a combination of individual therapy and group counseling.
Life Coaching or Coaching
This type of help is typically for those who are otherwise doing well but are looking for someone to help them excel or improve in one or more areas of their life. Life coaches may or may not be licensed counselors or psychologists. Life coaching isn’t governed by a professional board, although some professional organizations are emerging. Some of these groups offer training but aren’t part of a state licensing board. Health insurance doesn’t cover life coaching, and it must be paid for out of pocket.
Career counseling can be helpful when someone is uncertain about how to take the next step in their career. Whether the client is a high schooler trying to figure out what to pursue in college or someone with twenty years of experience in their field, a career counselor’s job is to help their clients find more meaning in their work.
It’s not uncommon to be involved in more than one type of counseling. Someone might be in individual therapy but also in a counseling group. Using the music analogy, this might be like taking private guitar lessons while also rehearsing with a band.