Counseling - an innocent enough looking and sounding word; but is it? A counselor can be that beloved friend from summer camp or that scary lawyer asking you questions. Another type of counselor can be the one who just wants to help you hear and help yourself. Maybe that one is the biggest problem because we are not used to people asking, "How are you?" and really listening and caring about your answer.

The role of a mental health counselor is not to frighten, it is not to give his or her views of the world, your world, or to provide instructions for you to live and grow. A part of the mental health counselor's role is to provide you, the client, with a safe haven, a comfortable setting that allows you to speak and "be" without fear of judgment, negativity or insults. A quality professional helps you hear what you are saying, he or she allows you to be the one who chooses your path. The guidance provided works with you, not against you. There is no "shoulding" out of the therapist's mouth.

You have rights and are entitled to evolve in a warm, protective environment. Therefore, a visit to the therapist's office opens up doors for you and areas to explore. There is no denying the fact that self-exploration is usually intense, involved, and can very well be downright painful; but two other parts of the equation are that the results are worth the outlay, and your guide needs to be a friendly, caring professional - the counselor.

I have wanted to share this information, ever since a client told me that her colleagues at work accused her of being "weirded out" since attending our sessions.

When asked how she felt: The responses were that she was nervous at first, but after meeting me and being allowed to share, she felt great!

Our sessions were quite involved and there were numerous layers of family issues to sort through; her task was never simple, but she was now thriving in all relationships and happy.

• Shelly M.S. Benezra, LPC, M.S.Ed. is with Alegre Counseling and Consulting Services, LLC, a member of the Ahwatukee Behavioral Health Network. Reach her at

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