Counselling boundaries and beginnings
The initial session with your counsellor may feel daunting. This article attempts to explain what may happen in your first meeting, although the order in which it’s done will differ to suit each counsellor’s way of working.
Generally counsellors begin by talking about themselves, which feels odd, as you have gone to talk to your counsellor! However this is an important part of the process and helps set clear boundaries between you and your therapist.
Your counsellor will speak to you about the way they work, often referred to as ‘contracting’ and involves them explaining the regularity and length of the sessions, the fee payable, and what to do if you need to cancel a session. This is usually done verbally, and may be followed by a written contract.
They may talk to you about what counselling is and isn’t, what they can and can’t do, their particular approach, confidentiality and what they will do if they see you in a public space. They may ask if you have questions regarding anything they have talked about. You can then explain what brings you to counselling and what you want to achieve from it.
This is an important moment, as it’s part of your ‘contracting’, explaining what you want help with, and an acknowledgement you want things to change. During this time your counsellor will be focussing on what you’re saying, actively listening to see if they can understand what you are bringing. They may summarise this so you can be sure they have clearly understood.
Hopefully by the end, you have some clarity, both in the practical aspects of the relationship but also in your understanding of what you want to achieve. This is the beginning of the process, which may change as you progress, but is now on firm ground as both you and your therapist know where you stand.
About the author
Warren is a person-centred counsellor who works with adults and young people from a wide range of backgrounds. He enables people to explore their experiences and feelings, in order to understand and gain some clarity with regards to their mental health, and how they might manage and cope with it in the future. He is based in Norwich, Norfolk.
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