Archive for the ‘Therapy for the Uninitiated and Intimidated’ Category.

How to Get the Most Out of Counseling – Gideon Killion

It may surprise you to hear this, but the most important factor in making counseling successful is you — the client. That’s not to say picking a good counselor isn’t important, but what you bring to the session matters more. So, what can you do to make your counseling experience as helpful as possible?


1. Be honest with your counselor and yourself.

As much as we might hope, not talking about something won’t keep it from being true, or from having an impact on us. It is usually better to be honest about something we don’t like about ourselves — even if we choose to accept it rather than change it — than to pretend it doesn’t exist. Here’s an example. I spent months working with a client named Mike, but after every session I scratched my head, wondering why he wasn’t making any progress. That is, until he revealed a secret that made change impossible. Only when we understood the role this secret was playing did change become possible.

2. Be responsible for your progress.

Counselors and therapists can’t “fix” us or give us “the answer.”  They can help us gain insight, process, heal, and grow, but we have to do the work. And it is work — often hard work — to make lasting change.

3. Be willing to change.

This may seem obvious, but some clients come to counseling to figure out how to get someone else to change, such as a spouse, a boyfriend, or a child. And sometimes we do need to ask people in our lives to change their behaviors, or to seek change in our life circumstances. But, ultimately, any significant change we wish to make in life begins with change in ourselves, since that is all we can control.

4. Do it for yourself.

Many people come to counseling because someone else has insisted. Sometimes it’s a spouse. Sometimes it’s a judge. But it’s usually a waste of time until we find our own reason to be there. One of my first clients, Alan, only showed up for couple counseling because his fiancée dragged him. He made sure to participate, but only enough to keep her off of his back. Not surprisingly, we made little progress. I don’t blame him for being uncomfortable or not wanting to be there, but if he was going to come — if he was going to spend his money and time — he could have used the opportunity to make his relationship more satisfying and meaningful.

5. Anticipate the change you desire.

Make it real with your imagination. Doing so will make it seem more possible, more tangible, and thus easier to achieve. Sometimes we fail because instead of dwelling on what we want to achieve, we imagine reasons why we can’t do it. Now, I am not suggesting that we should not anticipate the challenges we will face along the way and create plans to overcome them. But, all too often, we talk ourselves out of success.

I hope these ideas are helpful to you in your counseling journey.

Remember that you are the most important factor in creating the change you desire.

*All names have been changed to protect confidentiality.


About the Author: Gideon Killion is an intern counselor in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. He also has a private counseling practice at

6 Common Types of Counseling and Psychotherapy – Gideon Killion

Whether you are already working with a counselor or psychotherapist, or are still trying to figure out whether you want to, you may be bewildered by the many different kinds of psychotherapies that are available. I certainly am — and I went to counseling school! So, I thought it might be helpful to give you a brief description of a few of the most common ones. There is certainly much more to these therapies than I can cover in a blog, but perhaps when you see one of these terms in the future, you will have some sense of what it means. I’ll start with six of the most common types.


  1. Psychoanalytic Therapy

Originally created by Sigmund Freud, and developed since by many others, this is the oldest tradition of psychotherapy. It encompasses psychodynamic therapy, depth psychology, and Jungian analysis, as well. It has given us concepts such as the id, ego, and superego, not to mention the cliché of the therapeutic couch. The goal of psychoanalytic therapy is to help clients uncover their unconscious motivations, thoughts, feelings, and conflicts. The therapist offers the client a safe environment in which to talk about his or her problems. The therapist will probably pay particular attention to childhood events, and may also analyze or interpret the client’s dreams and free associations.



  1. Gestalt Therapy

This is an experiential therapy, initially developed by Fritz and Laura Perls. Gestalt theory teaches that psychological problems are the result of people having fragmented selves, where some aspects are unacknowledged or disowned. Healing occurs through increased awareness, acceptance, and integration of all the parts of one’s self, particularly the parts that have been hidden or rejected. Awareness increases through contact with the present moment during the therapy session. The therapist may point out the incongruity in a client’s words and behaviors, suggest that the client role-play a dialogue between conflicting parts of him or herself (aka the “empty chair technique”), or ask the client to act out an unresolved situation from the past.


  1. Person-Centered Therapy

Also known as client-centered therapy, this approach was pioneered by Carl Rogers. It is a humanistic therapy that believes people will naturally grow and find solutions to their problems when they experience a relationship with a therapist who is genuine, warm, accepting, understanding, and empathetic. A person-centered therapist will usually let the client lead the conversation, while communicating these traits to the client. The therapist may also use his or her responses to help the client become aware of conflicting statements.


  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the most widely used forms of psychotherapy. It was pioneered by Albert Ellis, Aaron Beck, and Donald Meichenbaum. According to this theory, problematic emotions and behaviors are produced or at least maintained by dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs. Clients change as they learn to recognize, challenge, and replace dysfunctional thought patterns with functional ones. A CBT therapist may ask clients to keep a journal of their thoughts, so that they can be examined. The therapist may challenge the client’s beliefs via Socratic questioning, suggesting alternative possibilities, or encouraging the client to conduct experiments to test their beliefs in the real world.


  1. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT was developed by Marsha Linehan as a treatment for suicidal clients, but has become known for its effectiveness in treating Borderline Personality Disorder. DBT sees problematic behaviors as a person’s best attempt to adapt to his or her (often painful) experience. The goal of DBT is to help clients replace these behaviors with more effective coping and relating skills. Clients participate in both individual and group therapy to learn and practice mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and effective ways of relating to others.


  1. Narrative Therapy

This post-modern approach to therapy recognizes the way in which people’s experiences are shaped by the narratives, or stories, they create to make sense of their lives. Dysfunctional patterns of behavior are created and reinforced by stories that rob people of their power to choose and act. Positive change occurs as they replace these stories with ones that are more affirming and empowering. A narrative therapist will help the client deconstruct his or her current story by identifying exceptions and alternatives, and by helping the client view his or her problems as external to the client’s identity. Once this has been done, the therapist helps the client to create a new, more empowering life story.


I plan to describe a few more types of therapy in a future blog post. But, hopefully the six short descriptions I provided today will be meaningful the next time you read or hear about one of these approaches to psychotherapy.


Gideon Killion is an intern counselor in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. He also has a private counseling practice at


Therapy for the Uninitiated and Intimidated: 9 Things to Expect in Counseling – Gideon Killion

If you’ve never tried counseling or psychotherapy before, you may be a little worried about what it will be like. You may even be a lot worried. Will it be awful? Like a job interview, but with more crying?

You do not have to cry. Not if you don’t want to. But if you do, it’s okay. Counseling is certainly a good place for crying; your counselor won’t think less of you (and has a box of tissues ready). But… crying is not a requirement.

So, what can you expect?


There are many different sorts of counselors, and many different sorts of therapy, but you can be fairly certain of a few things:

 1. There will be a counselor.

2. There will be a chair. Or a couch. Something for you to sit on, anyway.

3. There will be some talking.

Feel better? Not yet? Ok, here are some more things to know about counseling:

 4.You do not have to do anything you do not want to do.

Everything that happens in counseling is voluntary. The counselor may ask you questions, or suggest that you do things, but it’s up to you. You can say “Yes,” and you can say “No.” Of course, how much you get out of counseling will depend on how much you participate.

5. You can ask questions.

If you’re wondering why the counselor is asking certain questions, or suggesting certain activities, or if you want to understand your counselor’s methods in general, ask! By law, you have the right to ask for and receive information about the theory, process, and methods your counselor uses, as well as his or her qualifications.

6. The counselor will ask you questions.

The counselor will ask you about the issue that brings you to counseling. He or she will probably ask you talk about its history and impact on your life, as well as the steps you have already taken to resolve it. The counselor may ask about many different parts of your life, such as work, income, education, ethnicity, medical history, substance use, family history, relationships, and so on. It may seem nosy, but the counselor is asking because your issue is probably connected to other parts of your life. To serve you well, the counselor needs to discover these connections.

 7. The counselor will probably want to talk about feelings.

The counselor will probably want to discuss many things that go on inside you, such as thoughts, beliefs, physical sensations — and yes — emotions. Some counselors will focus on them more, some less, but you’ll end up talking about emotions at some point during counseling. Whether you think emotions are what make life beautiful, or are the only things stopping you from becoming Spock, your counselor will see them as information about what is important and meaningful to you.

8. The counselor may suggest exercises or activities.

Counseling is not just talking. Many kinds of therapy involve specific exercises that are intended to create insight or foster change. For example, a counselor using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may ask you to keep a “thought journal,” while a counselor trained in Gestalt techniques may ask you to speak to an imaginary person sitting in an empty chair.

9. The counselor will listen to you and care about what you are going through.

It may seem strange that a person you have only just met would actually care about you, but it’s probably true. Most counselors do what they do because they find satisfaction in supporting and caring about other people. You should expect genuine empathy, understanding, and support from your counselor.


Gideon Killion is an intern counselor in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. He also has a private counseling practice at

Therapy for the Uninitiated & Intimidated: How to Choose a Counselor – Gideon Killion

Whether you’ve decided to find a counselor (or some other kind of psychotherapist), or are still thinking about it, you are probably wondering how to go about finding and choosing one. There are a lot of counselors and psychotherapists offering many different kinds of therapies. How do you find one that is right for you? It seems daunting. Last week I had to find a plumber to unclog a drain and that was hard enough, even though I am fairly certain that most drain unclogging boils down to snake tools, wrenches, and P-traps.


Here are some steps to make the process easier.



Step 1: Define your goal.

It may be tempting to gloss over this step, but don’t. Give it some attention. You may already be aware of the problem: “I feel depressed,” “I am terrified of poodles,” etc. Spend some time translating the problem into a goal. For example, “I feel depressed” could become “I want to feel joy, purpose, and connection with other people.” This step is important in three ways. First, it will make it easier to choose a counselor, later in the process. A practitioner who has expertise or interest in your goal will probably be a better fit than one who doesn’t. Second, you’ll be ready when the therapist asks, “How can I help you?” Third — and most important — identifying your goal is therapeutic on its own. It sets the stage for successful change.


Step 2: Do some research.

There are many different kinds of psychotherapy. You may have heard of some of them: CBT, DBT, Gestalt, Psychoanalysis, just to name a few. The good news is that, in general, your motivation and your relationship with the psychotherapist are more important that the particular type of therapy. But you may find that a particular type of therapy fits you better and makes it easier for you to stay motivated and connected to your therapist. So, if you can, do a little research online or in your local library on some of the different kinds of therapies that are available, and see which ones appeal to you. For example, this Wikipedia entry lists some common types of psychotherapy. Certain therapies are known to be effective for specific problems, so you may also want to do some research about your problem or goal, too.


Step 3: List your requirements.

Realistically, your financial resources and availability will limit your options for counseling or other psychotherapy. Identifying these up front can guide your choices. Some psychotherapists take insurance while others do not. (If you pay for therapy or counseling out-of-pocket, you may still be able to file forms with your insurance company in order to be reimbursed, later. Just be sure to check with them in advance to make sure that the practitioner and treatment are covered by your policy.) There are practitioners and programs that offer reduced or sliding scale rates for those with limited financial resources. (The People House Affordable Counseling Program is one of these.) Ask yourself how you will pay for counseling and how much you can afford to pay, as well as when you can make yourself available. Also consider whether you need individual counseling, couple counseling, or family therapy. And don’t overlook group counseling: it can be powerful and is often more affordable.


Step 4: Gather a list of possible practitioners.

Once you’ve established your goal, done a little research, and listed your requirements, it’s time to begin looking for a handful of counselors or psychotherapists from whom to choose. If you are comfortable doing so, ask friends or family members if they have any recommendations. Your doctor / minister / rabbi / guru / herbalist / yoga teacher may also be able to suggest someone. Use an internet search engine, such as Google, and try different search terms, such as “couple counseling sliding scale Denver”, “cognitive behavioral therapy Colorado”, or “poodle phobia counselor Denver”. Many therapists pay to be listed in online professional directories that you can search directly, too. One of the most popular is at Finally, psychotherapists in your area will often leave cards, flyers, or newsletters on bulletin boards in local coffee shops and other business establishments. Keep your eyes open when you’re out and about.


Step 5: Contact them.

Once you have a handful of names, call or email them. Explain what you are looking for and ask whether it is something they can help with. Ask for information about their fees, available appointments, credentials, and the methodology they use. Ask if they would be willing to do a free initial consultation, either over the phone or in person. Some do, and it is a good opportunity to tell them about your goal and to ask how they would help you achieve it.

Step 6: Decide.

Once you’ve contacted the people on your list, it’s time to decide. Rule out the ones that won’t work for practical reasons, and decide between the rest. And remember, it’s not permanent: you can change therapists if it doesn’t work out. Good luck!

6 steps


Gideon Killion is an intern counselor in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. He also has a private counseling practice at

Therapy for the Uninitiated and Intimidated: 5 Good Reasons to Try Counseling or Therapy – Gideon Killion

Let’s be honest. If you’re like most people, you’re uncomfortable with the idea of counseling. Isn’t counseling just for crazy people, you wonder? How could it possibly help to just sit there and talk to someone? Is it worth the money? Well, here are five ways counseling can help.

1. Sometimes, we just need someone to listen

Humans are relational beings. We cannot be healthy without connection to other people. Yet our modern, fast-paced society leaves many of us feeling disconnected and lonely. If we are fortunate enough to have close friends, they are often as busy as we are and they may not have the time, energy, or relational skill to listen to us in the way that we need. A counselor or therapist is trained to listen with patience and compassion. They offer the freedom to tell our stories without the fear that we will overwhelm or be rejected by our listener.

2. Sometimes, we need to work through unfinished business

Everyone has unresolved emotional baggage from the past. Maybe it’s something we needed but didn’t get from a parent. Maybe we carry wounds from bad relationships. Regardless of the cause, unfinished business can affect the way we see the world and hold us back from the lives we want to live. Because humans are relational, sometimes we cannot fully process the unfinished business alone. We need to work with someone, like a counselor, who has the training to help us do this.

3. Sometimes, we need treatment for mental health problems

The human brain is an organ, and like other organs, it doesn’t function perfectly. It can develop conditions that make it difficult for the person attached to it to live well. Proven and effective therapies have been created for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and many other conditions. Many of us feel shame about needing this kind of help, but finding the courage to contact a counselor is often the first step toward healing.

 4. Sometimes, we need to learn to relate to others better

Relationships are one of the most important parts of a healthy, meaningful, and satisfying life. But good relationships do not happen naturally. Often, the more important a relationship is, the more difficult it becomes. Our culture does not do a good job of teaching most of us the skills and habits that make good relationships possible. Counselors can help us discover and change the patterns and habits that prevent us from creating good relationships and they can help us develop the skills for maintaining them.

5. Sometimes, we need help to grow

Many people reach a point in life where they realize they are not satisfied or fulfilled. They sense that they need to grow or develop in some way, but aren’t sure how. They think about it inwardly, or discuss it with friends, but still aren’t sure where they are headed or how to get there. That’s when it’s time to call a counselor. A trained counselor can listen to our stories and help uncover the needs and desires that long to be satisfied, the wounds and fears that hold us back, and the values and beliefs that guide our choices. A counselor can help us identify the actions we must take in order to grow and reach the next level of our lives.


Gideon Killion is an intern counselor in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. He also has a private counseling practice at

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth