Updated: Sep 27
There are countless reasons women pursue therapy. To simply name a few, women may choose counseling in order to: reduce anxiety levels at work, gain coping skills for emotions that feel big, learn the benefits of setting boundaries, and break free from perfectionism. Depending on your personal goals, therapy will allow you to fully engage in your life and give yourself permission to pursue the life that you actually want to live, not one dictated by the pressures you (and society) put on yourself.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended as therapy, nor is it a replacement for mental health treatment. It should not be considered professional, medical advice for any one individual and is not intended to diagnose or treat any mental health condition, and does not create a clinician/client relationship. If in crisis, call 911 or go to local ER. See full disclosure statement here.
Step 1: Identify your goals for counseling
Whether you have spent hours considering what your goals for counseling would be, or this question throws you for a loop, identifying what you hope to get out of your experience in women's counseling is an important first step. These hopes will be explored in your first sessions, as your goals will be a roadmap for the therapeutic process.
The question I personally like to ask to assess goals is, "How would you know your time in therapy was done; what would have changed?" Answering this question for yourself will help you identify what you are seeking in pursuing counseling. But don't feel pressure to have these goals perfectly defined. That's what the therapist is there for!
Step 2: Address the cause of the desired changes
The next chapter of therapy will look at what has caused the distress, frustration, and/or anxiety leading you to seek therapy. This helps the therapist target your goals more effectively.
For example, let's say two women are coming to counseling in order to learn how to establish boundaries. For one of them, the cause of the boundaries difficulties are due to their family background but for the other it's the sexist work environment they're navigating. Same goal but for very different reasons for counseling.
Step 3: Start treating the cause of the problem
The path of treatment will depend on the reasons behind why the problem has shown up. Generally speaking, there will be a mix of providing stress management skills, emotional regulation tools, processing family relationships, and increasing self-esteem through self-acceptance.
If your goals are more specific to anxiety and/or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, treatment will be structured in ways to effectively target those concerns. For anxiety, a combination of Acceptance-Commitment Therapy (changes your relationship to anxiety and anxious thoughts) and Emotionally-Focused Therapy (allows you to address core fears while processing emotions) will be use. Read more on anxiety treatment here.
For someone seeking OCD treatment, Exposure-Response Prevention (decreases compulsions by practicing exposures to fears), Acceptance-Commitment Therapy (changes your relationship to anxiety and anxious thoughts), and Inference-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (teaches how to resolve doubts through grounding in reality-based senses) will be used. Read more on OCD treatment here.
Step 4: Practice the skills and adjust goals for women's counseling
A big part of therapy is practicing all the skills you're learning. This is like learning to flex new muscles-- it can take time but even the smallest step contributes to building that muscle.
As skills are built upon, the goals of counseling may change and grow. This is completely fine and an expected part of the therapy process.
Step 5: Start living the way you've always wanted
Long story short: therapy works. It works when you've found a therapist you really jive with relationally and who is equipped to help you with your specific goals. If you've tried women's counseling before and it didn't do all you needed it to, I'd encourage you to seek out a therapist trained in different treatments from the ones you've tried before. There really is a therapist for everyone, and you're allowed to pursue a great fit.
As you start learning the tools needed to achieve your goals, your life will start feeling more full. Sometimes even before you know it, you'll find yourself back in the driver's seat of your life and on the road to living a life enriched by your values. You deserve to live in such a way that you'll be grateful for it when you're 90 years old.
If online counseling for women sounds like something you've been craving, please reach out today!
All my best,
Lauren Spencer, M.S., LMFT