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How to be happier

answered 02:59 PM EST, Tue August 23, 2011
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anonymous anonymous
I don’t think there is anything wrong with my life but it just isn’t really the life I want to be leading…if that makes any sense. I want to be a happier person living a more exciting life with more friends and more rewarding work…basically, my life needs a makeover and I don’t know how or where to start.

I am not mentally ill in any way (that I know of!) so I feel kind of weird seeking counseling, but is this the kind of thing a counselor can help me to achieve? What kind of counseling/counselor should I look for?

Art Matthews Says...

Most definitely!  Counseling as a profession began with a focus on personal growth and vocational development and has grown into a broader profession that includes a range of services from personal growth and development to the treatment of mental and behavioral health conditions. 

Many people are confused by the variety of providers and the alphabet soup that can trail behind a provider's name.  You can find practitioners with PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), PsyD (Doctor of Clinical Psychology), LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist), LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), LCPC (Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor), and LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker). 

A new breed of "helper" has come along using the moniker "Life Coach."  This profession has less training and experience in counseling and has not come under as much scrutiny related to professional standards and licensing/certification as the others.  I'm not saying that a life coach can't be helpful.  I'm telling you to be a good consumer and explore the background of ANY person you choose to work with: check their credentials with the state and national certifying and licensing agencies and Google them.  You may be surprised at what you can learn!

All providers today receive grounding in psychological and counseling theories.  The kind of provider you specifically want to look for would be someone with a Developmental Counseling background.  Developmental Theory focuses on just the sorts of things you feel like are missing in your life: career, recreation, relationships, etc.  A Professional Counselor will engage you in a variety of assessments and discussions that will uncover who you are, what your skills, interests and abilities are, and who want to become. 

With the type of presenting concerns you have, you may not be able to use health insurance benefits because you won't qualify under the "medically necessary" requirement of most health insurance policies.  That means you may end up paying for your counseling out of pocket.  However…

If you have not already completed college, you might consider signing up for a few introductory courses and making an appointment in the counseling center and/or the career counseling center.  Most often, counseling on a college or university campus is free for students.  College counselors are uniquely trained and experienced in helping people in the same situation explore their options and make decisions.  If a college or university near you has a psychology or counseling clinic open to the community, you might be able to save some money by working with a counseling intern who is supervised by an experienced and advanced degreed professional.  Caution: Avoid attending a for-profit institution as there has been a lot of press in the last 5 years about how they do the business of higher education.

If you have graduated from college, talk to someone at your alma mater and see what counseling or career services you might be eligible for.  They may have a career counseling center that will help you explore career interests and your degree to see where you can go and how much additional training may be necessary. 

Above all, expect this to take some time and effort.  The answers to these questions don't just strike like lightning.  You will need to develop awareness about yourself and challenge yourself to take some risks.  Trust me, it'll be worth it.

To find a National Certified Counselor, go to this site and click on your state and local area: http://www.nbcc.org/counselorfind   To find a counselor trained in career development, go to the National Career Development Association: http://associationdatabase.com/aws/NCDA/pt/sp/consumer_find

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Page last updated Aug 24, 2011

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