Maybe you’re struggling with a depressed mood, anxiety about being in social situations, or you’re unhappy in your job. Going to a professional counsellor can be a worthwhile growing and stabilizing experience, good for times when you have specific problems, interpersonal problems, or generally feeling down.
Simply put, counselling is a helping approach that highlights how you are feeling and what you are thinking about a situation and helping you to gain new perspective and ways of thinking and behaving in those difficult situations.
What happens first?
Before meeting a counsellor in person, they will likely have a 10-15 minute telephone or online consult, at no charge to you, The purpose of this short conversation is to help the counsellor decide if they can help you, and for you to have your first ‘gut’ feeling of whether or not this therapist is the right fit. Most of the time, you’ll know in the first few moments of conversation whether or not the counsellor is one that you will feel comfortable opening up to.
In the first face-to-face (or telephone, online) session is often called an “intake evaluation” and is likely not at all like what you can expect from your following sessions.
The purpose of the intake is for the counsellor to determine:
- what brings you to therapy?
- what symptoms are you experiencing?
- what is your personal and family history as these relate to mental health and well-being?
When this history is completed, and the clinician has a beginning understanding of you and what goes to make up the important things in your life, as well as your current difficulties, he or she should ask you if you have any questions for them. If you do, please feel free to ask them (and ask them even if the clinician forgets to offer this).
This would be a good time to ask a few questions about the clinician’s theoretical orientation, training, and background, especially in treating your specific type of problem.
Questions your counsellor might ask include:
- what brings you into therapy?
- what kind of symptoms you are experiencing?
- your family and general history
Ways to calm your anxiety
Remember that therapy is 100% confidential. This means that nothing you share would ever be shared with another individual unless you were to talk about harm to yourself, harm to others or any kid of child or elder abuse.
Remember that your therapist is human. They have lived through their own challenges and difficult relationships.
Remember that therapy is a process that will unfold over time and you may not experience a helpful change until several sessions are completed.
Contacting a counsellor or attending a first session does not commit you to that counsellor. It’s important to have a good ‘ft’ and if you don’t, and you can honestly say you are not avoiding or denying your problems, it’s okay to tell the counsellor you will be looking elsewhere.
Probably not much will change after your first session. If you can have patience with the process, and with yourself in the growth, you will see results.
The first session will help you decide if the therapist’s approach and personality will work for you.
The take-home message
A counselling relationship is a co-created relationship between you and your counsellor. If you state your goals, your expectations, your preferences, what matters most to you, and follow the tips outlined above, you will have the most success.
For more information about counselling and therapy, the following resources may be helpful.
- Canadian Mental Health Association. www.cmha.ca
- Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association. https://www.ccpa-accp.ca
- The Federation of Associations for Counselling Therapists in B C. https://www.factbc.org
- Counselling Psychology. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/counseling.aspx
- Psychology Help Centre. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/
- Who needs counselling? PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/lib/who-needs-counseling-10-therapy-myths-dispelled/
Note: The contents on Avail such as text, graphics, images, and information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this or any other website.