Beginning therapy: What to expect?
The decision to enter therapy can be daunting. Realising one might need some help and support could feel very unsettling. Perhaps there is anxiety, guilt about allocating resources to oneself, shame around being unable to cope on one’s own and real fear about sharing with another person the experiences driving one to therapy. All of this can feel like a swirling emotional fog and behind it can be a real sense of urgency around needing help. Alternatively, it can also feel distanced or “matter of fact”. This is a totally individual process and it feels important to acknowledge this.
That first phone call or email to a potential therapist can carry a lot of weight. Crossing the threshold into a practice room can be a huge step into the unknown. The initial contact with a therapist is vital to the establishment of the therapeutic relationship and will give a sense of how that relationship will be flavoured in an on-going way. The “fit” of therapist to client is perhaps the single most important ingredient in how the therapy will proceed.
Therapists are likely to offer an initial, often full-length session free of charge, so that the prospective client can get a feel for how the therapist practises and how comfortable it feels in the room. Depending on how the therapist works, the prospective client might be offered a choice of seating arrangements and this sort of exchange can subtly influence how the relationship might progress and how as a client you might start to feel in that relationship.
This first session is an opportunity to discuss the reasons for starting therapy and for any questions about the ways in which the therapist might work - including any jargon needing demystifying - to be answered. The nuts and bolts of counselling might well be discussed in this session, including confidentiality and perhaps contact details be noted should a prospective client decide to enter therapy. It may be suggested that the prospective client “think it over” and explore other therapists in the search to find the one with whom there is the best fit. Taking the time to reflect when feeling a need to get started can seem difficult and yet pausing might be of considerable value. Equally, a prospective client might feel a sense of being comfortable, that “this feels right” and feel secure in beginning.
Entering therapy can feel like a big step. The choice of therapist is intimately personal and the fit is vital. The initial contact, whether via email or phone, then that first meeting can both inform and flavour the choices there to be made.
About the author
Merri Mayers, an MBACP registered counsellor, works near Cirencester, Gloucestershire. Merri is an integrative therapist employing the most effective aspects of person centred, gestalt, psychodynamic, systemic and TA models. She works relationally, understanding that how we engage with others can illuminate how we see and feel about ourselves.
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