Featured Article

Just Tell Me What to Do…

Nick P. Patras, PhD

A student comes in to the Counseling Center having reached a level of dis-ease with some aspect of his or her life. The student (client) is at a place of wanting the pain and discomfort to stop. They are seeking help and it may have been challenging to just make the appointment. Then somewhere during that first session the student will utter some variation of the title of this article… “just tell me what to do.” As counselors we approach this pivotal moment with deep empathy but with the theoretical knowledge that the solution to the problem lies within the student. 

One private practice counselor has this on his website: “The purpose of counseling is to help clients achieve their personal goals, and gain greater insight into their lives. One hopes that by the end of this process one will be more satisfied with his or her life. Counseling is NOT a process where the counselor tells the client what he or she should do or decides choices for the client to make. Rather it is an opportunity for the client to come to a greater understanding of the person that he or she is with the help of the counselor.”

Many students arrive at a campus having lived with family members who have made all the important decisions for them up to that point in their lives. Some rely heavily on peers or a social support system to help them decide what choices to make or actions to take. In essence, students often arrive at the campus not fully knowing themselves or what they believe. They lack a connection to an internal value system that can help guide their decisions. Often times it is a challenging life situation that manifests as depression, anxiety, or some other symptoms that is the antecedent to seeking counseling. 

Good counseling takes into account cultural differences and the current developmental stage of the client, which for most traditional college students is the stage of forming one’s identity according to Erikson.  Going deep within to gain awareness of the cause of the pain, coupled with getting in touch with  emotions and strengthening the ability to exercise emotional control goes a long way to developing an identity. Having someone tell you what to do may be taking away your opportunity to learn, grow, and become more self-actualized.

As a counseling client, you deserve the following that are adapted from GoodTherapy:

  • You are not a symptom or disorder; you are a unique human being.
  • You are entitled to a counselor who can provide empathic support.
  • You should be treated like a co-therapist. It is your life and you are the expert.
  • You deserve the human-to-human connection which allows people to grow and change.
  • Your session should be about you and your experience and not about the counselor.

 The Counseling Center is committed to providing counseling that empowers each client, encourages developmental growth and gained personal insight, all while trusting the client to have the best solution to the particular challenge already within themselves. The collaborative process of counseling is the journey to finding that solution.


Ideas or questions for the Counseling Corner? Give us a call at 903-886-5145.

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