So you've decided to give counselling a go. It's a big commitment in time and money so you want to be able to get the most out of the experience. You could just come to your first session and see what happens. Your counsellor should make you feel welcome and comfortable. They will help you begin to form that all important counselling relationship so that you feel safe enough to talk about how you are feeling. And that's fine. Your counsellor will work with whatever you bring. However, you will get more out of your sessions if you do a little bit of planning and give some thought what you want from your sessions beforehand.
Counselling is a two way, collaborative process and here's something - you counsellor doesn't have all the answers! What they do have are the skills to help you to explore what is troubling you, to clarify how you feel, discover what you want to do to make your situation better and decide how you are going to move forward. But the answers will ultimately come from you. You are in charge of your sessions and part of therapy is learning that you do have choices and that you are responsible for making them. That can be challenging to accept. Counselling can be difficult at times, taking us to painful places we may have avoided. But these are often the places where self awareness is found and this is so important for us to be able to listen to that inner voice that we need to guide us through life. So, what follows is a bit of a check list to think about both before you begin counselling and during your series of sessions.
Think about whether you are ready to undertake counselling sessions. This can be whether you are ready to start to talk about difficult or possibly painful feelings and experiences at this point in your life? Are there other things you need to deal with first such as health or financial problems so that you can focus on exploring your own personal needs? Also, can you commit to a series of sessions at this time in your life both in terms of time and money? Counselling is a commitment that needs to be given the respect and importance it deserves for you to get the best out of your sessions. Also, there may be different options. For example, I offer a discount for block booking sessions or you might be able to have sessions fortnightly rather than weekly.
Give some thought to what you want to get out of therapy. Do you want to explore a big decision you know you are going to be faced with? Do you need some help to deal with difficult feelings such as depression, anxiety or grief? Is it your relationships which are causing you problems and you want to work out how to relate to others in a more satisfying way? Are you finding your lack of self confidence and self worth is impacting on making the changes you want to? You can bring anything that is troubling you to counselling but it will be helpful if you start with an idea of what that is. This focus may change during the sessions, but it will help you and your counsellor review how your sessions are going and whether you are getting what you need.
Your counselling sessions belong to you. Your therapist may suggest ways of working together that they feel may be helpful, but, if you are not comfortable with their suggestion, tell your counsellor. Not everyone likes working in certain ways and not every way of working is suitable for everyone. There are many different approaches to counselling and it's important that you feel you can trust your counsellor to take note of what you do and do not want.
Sometimes, you can feel that your sessions are not working for you. This can be disappointing and frustrating. It is possible that your counsellor is not the right one for you or the type of therapy they offer isn't a good fit. Talk to your therapist about how you feel. It may be a problem they are not aware of and you may find that they can make changes to your therapy that suit you better. However, remember that it takes time to form a good relationship with your counsellor and maybe you just need to give yourself a chance to settle into it. If you still feel you are not getting what you need form your sessions, you may need to consider finding an alternative counsellor.
Hopefully, I have helped you to feel a bit more prepared for engaging with counselling, should you decide to. Although it can be challenging, counselling can also be liberating and truly life changing.
I wish you well on your journey.