So you’ve never had counselling before; your friends, family and co-workers have suggested that you give it a try. Maybe you even have access to free sessions through your benefit package from your workplace.
Congratulations! You’ve made the first step and this first step puts you ahead of many who would not have the courage to engage in the counselling process. Maybe you’ve been to counselling before but you didn’t find it very helpful. Good of you to consider trying again...
Here are some thoughts to consider to help you manage your expectations and prepare you for your best experience:
Reflect on your own readiness to change
The area over which you have the most control is yourself, and changing yourself is the ultimate goal of therapy. Change can be an easy process if you are motivated and frustratingly difficult if you are not. Consider where you are in terms of your own motivation and take time to reflect on your reasons and ways that counselling would be most beneficial to you.
Be prepared to set clear goals
Before you have your first appointment, consider how you would like to benefit from the experience. Is it about having a non-biased person to listen and provide support? If so, what changes would you notice within yourself if you felt that the experience was beneficial? Is it about learning new strategies that can help you cope with your situation? If so how much time will you be prepared to devote to the process of learning and practicing new skills?
Be willing to continue the process by applying what you have learnt in between sessions
In some sessions you will receive very clear instructions around exercises/ skills that you can practice outside of your therapy session. In other sessions you might discover insightful information about yourself and your current pattern of response in a particular situation. Incorporating what you are discovering/learning during your session into your daily habits gives you the opportunity to try new behaviours with the support of your therapist, who would be able to help you modify things to the point where you develop new approaches to situations that would be best suited to you and most relevant and helpful in the situation that you find yourself in.
Be compassionate with yourself and know that the process will take time
Your therapy process may feel like one step forward and three steps backwards. Your ability to make a forward step is the most important part of the process. Next would come the ability to evaluate your successes and growth areas, adjust your strategy then try again. The ultimate aim would be to look for continuous improvement for yourself. Note that your process is completely unique to you so you set your own goals at the pace that is best for you.
Special Note to couples...
In every relationship each person contributes to the wellbeing or demise of the relationship by their thoughts and attitudes towards the relationship and their own behaviour. If you are in a relationship and you attend couples’ counselling, the best approach would be to consider where you have been contributing thoughts, attitudes and behaviours that are detrimental to the relationship and areas where you can improve. One of the growth areas to consider would be getting to the place where you can show empathy, understanding and concern for your partner even if you are hurt by the partner’s attitudes, choices or beliefs. If your partner suffers with a mental health concern, an addiction or some other disorder, it would also be helpful to consider how you can focus on your self-care in the situation.
Your next steps
If you are looking for counselling and you haven’t booked an appointment, consider having a short consultation by phone to see if this service would be a good fit. You can arrange this by contacting me at Simply Serene Psychotherapy.