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Navigating the Counseling Agency Waiting Room Stress

Navigating the Counseling Agency Waiting Room Stress

Congratulations! You’ve decided to seek out affordable mental health treatment in a community agency. You’ve taken a step to improve your well-being, but while there, you encounter an unforeseen source of stress – the waiting room.

The chaos can be overwhelming as you’re surrounded by people from all walks of life, but don’t let the discomfort of the waiting room stand between you and the affordable, competent mental health treatment you deserve. Here’s how to navigate the waiting room like a seasoned pro:


Assess your Stress

Some find the waiting room experience a welcome opportunity to people-watch or to prepare for their coming session. Others find the entire process uncomfortable and unnecessary.

They might feel high levels of shame and embarrassment for being in a waiting room, or they feel waiting rooms increase only the anxiety they are hoping to reduce with treatment. Whatever the source, take a long look to understand your stress.


Challenge the Stigma

If you struggle with embarrassment, you will do well to address mental health stigma. Stigmas are biased views towards a whole group of people. It may seem surprising, but people with mental health conditions often stigmatize themselves, resulting in shame. Accept your state and know that sitting in the waiting will help meet your goals. There is nothing wrong with seeking mental health treatment. The only shame is ignoring the issue.


Shrink the Fear

People from all walks of life sit in mental health waiting rooms. At any given time, you could see children waiting to see a psychiatrist for their ADHD medication, a person with bipolar disorder restlessly pacing during a manic period, or someone with a psychosis actively hallucinating. It can be overwhelming, intimidating, and scary, but it doesn’t have to be.

These people may look, act, and think differently than you, but they are sitting in that waiting room looking for the same help as you.


Talk it Over

Since, your waiting room stress could come from many sources, talk about it with your therapist. She can help you understand what sparks your discomfort and investigate possible solutions. Perhaps, you can schedule your appointments for days or times that are less busy, or your therapist can teach you how to use the stress of the waiting room to extend the treatment goals.

For example, if you are seeing a therapist for social anxiety or agoraphobia, dealing with the waiting room stress, rather than avoiding it, can actually improve your symptoms.


Practice Relaxation

The waiting room in a community mental health agency can be a stressful place, but what place is not stressful? Identifying ways to turn stress into tranquility is always a useful coping skill.

Explore and experiment with techniques like deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and positive self-talk to calm your mind and relax your body. These strategies can offer the peace you seek.


Create a Plan

Entering a stressful situation without a strategy is like starting a football game without a playbook. Work through a few situations mentally and decide how you would like to respond. Ask yourself:

  • What if my neighbor walks in?
  • What if someone asks me why I’m there?
  • What if I get emotional before or after the appointment?
  • Should you rush out of the building screaming, or should you avoid all acquaintances and stare at your phone?

When answering these questions, imagine how you would like to be treated to guide your process.

In the end, the waiting room might seem like a foreign land when you first enter, but with a few modifications, you’ll feel at home in no time.



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Eric Patterson
Posted on 12/12/2018 by Eric Patterson

Eric Patterson is a licensed professional counselor from the Pittsburgh area who aims to help his clients improve their mental health and lead better lives. For the past 5 years, Eric has written extensively on the topics of mental health and addiction for various print and online sites with the goal of providing accurate and engaging content. Outside of work, Eric loves spending time with his family, listing to indie rock music, and going for long runs in the summertime.