Saturday, June 23, 2007

How to act in a counselor's office.

How to act in a counselor’s office.

I’ve been to four different counselors in my 31 years on the planet which either makes me well counseled or deeply troubled. And along the way I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks that can make a first time visit to a counselor’s office much better. So if you’re going get some counseling, which everyone should at some point in their life, please consider the following:

1. Don’t show up too early.
You’re goal should be to spend the least amount of time in the lobby of the counselor’s office. If it’s a big office the longer you wait for your appointment the longer you’ll have to do awkward head nods with other people that are leaving from other counseling sessions. And the magazine selection in counseling offices always suck. I think this is on purpose because if they had great magazines you might get happy in the lobby and feel like you could cancel your appointment. So instead they stock things like “Golf Digest” from 1987 and ”Saltwater Trout Fishing Digest.”

2. Read the magazines while you’re waiting.
Most counselors tend to run about 5-10 minutes late because the person that’s before you is always a narcissist that has no problem rambling on about their problems. In many cases, that person might be me. My sincere apologies. But when you’re waiting in the lobby, you want to stay busy to avoid the “I wonder what that person is in here for” game. Don’t stare at the other people and try to analyze what life crisis brought them to the lobby. Grab whatever magazine is nearby and read deeply, unless an addiction to salt water trout fishing is ruining your marriage. In that case don’t read the magazines.

3. If see someone you know, don’t start a long conversation.
Again, a simple head nod will suffice if you happen to run into someone you know. A few of my friends from my small group actually go to the same counselor I went to. I love these guys and talk to them all the time. But if we ever see each other in the lobby of the counselor’s office we act like baseball players from different teams shaking hands at the end of game. Much like standing next to someone at a urinal, it’s just not the best place to have a great conversation. So avoid the temptation.

4. Don’t make small talk with the admins.
Chances are, you’re not the only narcissist that comes to the office. The admin has probably spent an entire day fielding awkward conversations about the weather, the traffic, the growing cost of gasoline etc. from dozens of other people that can’t stand the silence of the lobby. Focus on the magazine.

5. Prepare a good answer to the question “what’s the nature of the visit?”
A lot of times when you schedule a first appointment on the phone, the admin will ask you some form of the question, “why are you coming?” I think that’s a horrible thing to do because basically someone has finally broken free of their fear to be real and honest about some pain and the admin is the last person they want to share their junk with. But it happens, and when it does go ahead and generalize your response. I told counselor #3’s admin that I was coming in to discuss “work issues and marital communication problems.” That was true, but it was definitely the G version of the mess I was in.

6. It’s OK to request different lobby music.
A lot of counseling books don’t address this one, but it’s important. Sometimes the office will have Satelite radio and the channel will get turned to something completely random. One afternoon before I session I noticed that the lobby was playing calypso music. I’m not saying they need to be blasting out something depressing like 13 minute live version of the Counting Crows “Round Here,” but it was hard to get into the counseling music with what sounded like the theme music to a Captain Morgan Rum commercial blaring in my head. I started making up words to go along with it, “I’m about to go see, counselor number 3. My hope is that he’ll fix, the junk inside of me. Congo line!”

I’m sure I’ll think of more, but those are a good start. Go to counseling. And if you need a good one in Atlanta or Birmingham let me know. There are some horrible counselors at there and I know at least four good ones.

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