Why you should practise proactive counselling

Thomas Goenczi 
Lookout contributor

The common notion about counselling is that taking care of your mental health must be reactive. There’s a sense that we have to wait until we find ourselves groping our way through the darkness of a depressive episode or throbbing with anxiety before we can seek help. For one reason or another, we tend to allow our symptoms or issues to exacerbate.

This may be due to the predominant method of medicine, which looks at the reduction or relief of the concerning symptoms. Moreover, once those symptoms fall back to homeostasis – a baseline level – the individual is deemed treated and prescribed techniques, exercises, and/or a medication regimen to maintain health.

There are similar protocols in some modalities of counselling, specifically short-term counselling. which is typically quantified as little as three to five sessions and up to 12 sessions. Generally, short-term counselling is centred around reducing symptoms, accomplishing a goal, and/or dealing with a current crisis such as the loss of a loved one, relational fractures, or work-related issues.

Once there’s been some form of therapeutic benefit, one finds the necessity for counselling to ebb. This is natural since we press forward when we overcome a struggle. However, to maintain the longevity of the therapeutic benefits, it may be valuable to use counselling as a practice of psychic hygiene. Psychic hygiene is any practice that helps maintain a psychologically healthy level, with the activity incurring little to no adverse reaction(s). This can be meditation, exercise, spending time with loved ones, maintaining a spiritual practice, connecting with nature, or even taking a bath.

When counselling is used to maintain one’s psychic well-being, it helps affirm the success of counselling while staying on top of issues. Moreover, it helps fortify meaningful change in one’s life; the imprint caused on one’s psyche by therapy is strengthened. Lastly, counselling in this regard can assist with recalibrating goals and identifying how to translate some past successes into one’s future success.

After six to eight weeks from your last session, it may be beneficial to reflect on how your life is similar and different. Good questions for reflection are:

Where is the momentum you had after concluding your sessions, and is it still going in the direction you like? If yes, why? If not, why?

How have your self-care practices been?

How would touching base with your counsellor impact you now?

Coming in for one or two sessions can help you gain some perspective on these questions.

Counselling for your psychological welfare doesn’t necessarily have to be after the conclusion of sessions. Sometimes we find ourselves in a rut, spinning our tires in the mud, and we need a little push or assistance to gain traction back in our lives. When something is off, or the stresses in life are becoming overwhelming, it might be beneficial to act swiftly and deliberately, to regain that leverage to get out of what you’re currently dealing with.

You don’t have to be reactive with your mental health. Counselling can prevent issues from getting to the point where they seemingly feel insurmountable. Furthermore, it can be used to concretize positive shifts in your life. Being proactive with your mental health keeps you moving forward and allows you to stay on track to follow your essence in life.

Thomas Goenczi is an RCN Veteran and MA Clinical Counsellor with Private Practice: Well Then Therapy.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition.

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