What will happen on your first counselling session?
If you've got to the stage of reading this (unless you're a friend or family member faithfully reading my blogs; in which case, a massive thank you!) it's quite likely you've been thinking about having counselling for a while.
Making the first step to doing something about it can be daunting and there can be lots of unknowns about what it will actually be like. Let me try and fill you in a bit...
Finding a counsellor
Finding the right counsellor for you is really important, and if you can afford to pay, rather than going through IAPT or a charity, you get to pick who you'd like to work with, out of many, many counsellors.
You can have a look around various counselling directories and get a feel for who is out there and how they work. A click on their website and/or social media will give you a good feel for what they are like and if you think they might be someone you'd like to work with.
The initial consultation
Many counsellors offer a free 15 minute telephone consultation. I certainly do. This gives you a chance to ask any questions you want to. You can check whether what I'm offering is what you're wanting, and I can assess whether I'd be able to offer that. You can find out any practical bits of information, and gives you a further feel of me and if you think we'd be able to connect well. Hopefully you'll go away feeling informed and reassured.
If you know you want to go ahead it can be an opportunity to check dates and times that would work and get booked in, but this is by no means an expectation or requirement.
You can do an initial consultation with a few counsellors in order to find the right fit for you, should you want to.
Should you decide to go ahead with me, I would email you my contract and GDPR statement to give you a chance to read through and see if you are happy with it or ask any questions you have.
You will be able to choose whether you'd prefer face-to-face counselling or for it to be done online via Zoom, or by telephone.
Should you choose face-to-face I would like to reassure you that I have had both vaccinations and have the necessary COVID precautions in place, adhering to all the relevant government guidance on safety and hygiene to keep us both as safe as possible.
I'd send my full address to you once you are booked in.
My counselling room is in my home, and is in the room at the front of the house, right by the front door. Unfortunately there is a little step and is quite narrow, so it's not particularly wheelchair friendly.
There is on-street parking, which isn't always the best, so you might not be able to park directly outside my house, but should find something a little further along the street.
If you choose to work online this will be via Zoom. I will send you an additional part to the contract covering online work, and with bits of information that will give tips and let you know how it works.
You'll need to make sure you have a private space where you won't be overheard and where you feel comfortable. I'll send you a link for the Zoom session, grab yourself a drink and we're off.
Should anything go wrong with the Internet connection or technology, we can have another try, and communicate by text, phone or email (which we'll agree beforehand). If we can't sort it out, we'll work out the next step from there.
How you might feel
Everyone is different in how they feel leading up to and during their first session with a counsellor, and you might find you feel comfortable with the process.
However it's totally normal to feel a bit apprehensive and have lots of thoughts going through your head: Will we get on OK? Will I like her? Will she like me? Will it be awkward? Will I be expected to talk about things I don't want to? Will she see right through me? What if my mind goes blank? What if I start crying before I've barely opened my mouth? I don't know what to expect Will she judge me? Will she understand what I'm trying to say? Will I be able to explain myself clearly? What if I run out of things to talk about? What if she thinks my problems are trivial? Will I feel worse for opening the box? Maybe I should keep things shut away. Will this help and make a difference? This is costing a lot, will it be worth it?.... The list could go on and on. All these thoughts, and many others are totally normal.
And I'll let you into a little secret...I feel nervous too. I am human like you. And whilst I have grown more comfortable with silences and uncertainties; with the feeling of stuckness, whilst experience has taught me to trust the process, though I have had many first sessions: I still feel nervous each time. And that's OK, because I'm human and it means that I care.
What the session might be like
First there's a few little paperworky types of things. Once we've got those things out of the way in the first session, we won't need to do any more.
Then the session can go where you want it to go.
It can be helpful to hear what you're hoping to get out of counselling, and can be a chance for you to give a bit of an overview of what's brought you here and why now.
And we're off. Counselling has begun!
We've started off our journey of getting to know each other, and hopefully trust will grow.
It is a unique space which is confidential, and all yours.
You can bring what you want to sessions - anything from little things that have come up in the week, to massive trauma and everything in-between.
The time is yours to use how you want.
I won't be dragging out of you anything you don't want to talk about, but I will be there alongside you, accepting you, really listening, reflecting things back, offering insights or things I've noticed from what you've said and helping you explore your thoughts, feelings, behaviours and experiences.
You may find it comfortable, you may not, your story may come tumbling out or you may struggle to find the words. Both are fine and I can help you if you're feeling stuck.
There are many different types of counselling, but research has shown time and again that it's the relationship between the client and therapist that makes the difference, more than the style of counselling.
Things build up over years, so there are rarely quick fixes, but however many sessions you chose to have I'm sure you'll find it is an important part of your journey.
What to do after the session
It can be good to give yourself time after the sessions, allowing space if you need it. You may feel thoughtful or tearful, and it can be helpful to not rush on to the next thing, but if possible allow yourself time to process and ground yourself. You could drive around for a bit, have a walk, sit reflectively with a cup of tea, journal or jot things down. However, I appreciate this isn't always possible.
You can sometimes end up feeling worse before you feel better, because it's not easy to address issues and remember difficult experiences. It's a bit like clearing out a drawer: you have to take things out in order to sort and tidy, and it can look a lot more messy in the process. The end result, however, is worth it.
Counselling is an investment and for a season, so carving out time not only for the sessions, but allowing space to feel and acknowledge the things that come up, giving time to process and for a bit of extra self-care is all part of the journey too.
There won't be any 'homework' from me. You may, however, want to reflect on what has been talked about and think about what you might like to bring to the next session. You don't have to come with an hour worth of material to talk about, but you might have an idea of a subject or experience to explore. Sometimes making an effort to notice particular things that have triggered you or brought up strong feelings in you during the week, that we could explore together.
Self-care comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes too, so maybe choose some things that you know work for you, and be kind to yourself. Having counselling takes courage and bravery and can be emotionally draining.
I hope that gives you a bit of an idea and sets your mind at rest a little as to how it will be. It really is normal to feel a bit apprehensive.
So, if you've been thinking about making some positive changes, and feel this is the next step for you, please do get in touch and we can get the ball rolling.
Ruth Gorrie - Coventry, CV2 firstname.lastname@example.org 07561 047 349