Coming to counselling for the first time
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Janine Wilcockson Dip.Couns Member MBACP
26th October, 20130 Comments
Just thinking about therapy for the first time can be quite a daunting experience. I know, from my own experience how confusing it can be looking through the long list of counsellors and range of therapies available. Often people who are coming to counselling for the first time may feel anxious, embarrassed, or scared. Knowing more about the process can help you to feel reassured.
Today there are more options available to you than just the traditional face to face format - such as telephone, email and Skype. Face to face remains the most popular method, with many clients enjoying the feeling of closeness to another person. However some clients prefer the anonymity that telephone and email counselling provides, and how it fits into a busy schedule. This is a matter of personal preference and you will know which feels right for you.
Common misconceptions about counselling:
“Counselling is for the raving looney”
Some people still think that counselling is only for people with serious mental health issues. Counselling can help with difficult life experiences such as relationship breakdown, bereavement, redundancy, low self esteem and feelings of guilt, fear, sadness, and anger as well as problems such as depression and anxiety. Visiting a counsellor can help you feel listened to, less alone with your problem or feelings, as if a weight has been lifted, helping you to cope during a difficult time.
Some people may worry that their problem isn’t really important enough and feel that they would be wasting the counsellor’s time. This is never the case as every problem is important, and anything that is causing you distress or impacting on your daily living is a good enough reason to seek counselling.
Help is also available with more specialist treatments for eating disorders, phobias, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
“Seeking help is a sign of weakness”
Coming to therapy can involve a lot of bravery on the part of the client and is certainly never a sign of weakness. It can be difficult to find the right therapist. Getting to know and trust them enough to discuss what is troubling you can feel like a big risk.
Finding the right therapist
Lots of information can be found on the many types of therapy but recent research shows that the most important factor in counselling is the relationship between the client and the counsellor.
If you are able to trust your therapist and feel really comfortable with them, then you have a much greater chance of successful counselling. Trust your instincts and shop around. Do not settle for a counsellor you do not feel comfortable with.
Some counsellors offer a free first appointment. This can be a great opportunity for you to meet the counsellor and gauge if they feel like the right person for you. You should get the opportunity to ask questions and get a taste of what counselling is like. The first session is an assessment which can be a little different to further sessions with information being taken, helping the client and therapist to check their compatibility.
You should never feel pushed into counselling or under any obligation to start sessions immediately. You may want to contact several therapists before choosing.
The first session
At the first session the counsellor may ask you questions such as what is troubling you at the moment, what you hope to achieve from counselling, your personal history, and about your current symptoms.
Don’t be put off as this first session can involve some note taking and form filling, for example details such as contact and GP details will be required, and information such as any medication you are currently taking.
Remember this first session is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions, and your counsellor should be happy to explain anything you are concerned about.
During this first session the counsellor is likely to talk to you about confidentiality and inform you about the times when they may need to disclose information to another professional. This is usually if your counsellor has any real concerns that you are at serious risk of harm, or that another person may be harmed. Don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand or they fail to mention their policy on disclosure.
I hope this article may have helped in some way and I wish you well with your future counselling.
Related articles from our experts
Fiona Goldman, BACP Registered CounsellorJanuary 17th, 2017
Julie CrowleyJanuary 18th, 2017
Tom KeelyJanuary 16th, 2017
Andrea Harrn Psychotherapist and Author of The Mood CardsMay 13th, 2011
Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Supervisor (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,MBPsS)March 29th, 2015
Keeley Townsend BA (Hons), Ad.Dip.CP with Distinction, MNCS (Acc)December 14th, 2009
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