What to expect in your first session
The initial consultation is for 30 minutes. During this first meeting, we will discuss what brings you to counselling, the kind of change you'd like to make in your life and how we can work to help you achieve it.
Are you thinking of going to a counsellor for the first time? Whatever your reason for seeking help, you will be more at ease and get better results if you know what to expect.
In your first session, I would ask certain questions about you and your life. This information helps me to make an initial assessment of your situation. I've listed below a few questions you may be asked:
Why you are seeking therapy?
A particular issue probably led you to seek counselling. If you could help me to understand your surface problem(s), i.e. what has brought you to seek counselling, before we get to the deeper issues.
Your personal history and current situation?
I would ask you a series of questions about your life. For example, because family situations play an important role in who you are, I'll ask you about your family history and your current family situation.
Your current symptoms?
Other than knowing the reason you sought therapy, I will attempt to find out if you're suffering from other symptoms arising from your concerns. For example, what is affecting you may also be causing difficulty at work or in a close relationship. This information will be used to better understand your problem. However, whilst a core diagnosis may be made at the first visit, a comprehensive diagnosis may take longer to establish.
Before you get to the session, it can help to know how to describe "what's wrong" and to describe your feelings about your problem. One way to prepare is to write down the reasons you're seeking help. Make a list and then read it out loud. Hearing yourself say it a few times will help you describe things more clearly at the session.
Therapists are trained to ask the right questions but we're not mind readers. If you answer the questions openly and honestly this helps to build our working relationship and, in return, I will be as authentic as I can be with you. A lot will be going through your head in this first session. List your own reactions and feelings, and share them with me. Together we will both learn from these insights.
The more you understand the counselling experience or how counselling works, the more comfortable you'll be. Ask questions about the therapy process, and ask to have the question repeated if you don't understand.
You may feel anxious to start counselling as it's a big step forward, you may feel vulnerable and nervous, but I can assure you that when we have faced up to the issues and have dealt with them, it will have been worthwhile.
As your Counsellor my focus will be
As your counsellor my focus will be on what’s happening to you in the present. This could be difficulties at work/home, one specific traumatic event such as a bad break up or losing your job, or even just feeling more stressed than usual. I’ll look at your immediate presenting symptoms and behaviour (e.g. feeling more anxious than usual) and how that’s affecting your life, rather than delving deeper into your childhood or past.
Looking at these symptoms, I will focus on equipping you with workable, short-term tools that can help you breakout of negative thoughts and habits. This means that counselling normally has a shorter duration, lasting anywhere from just 6 sessions, and rarely more than 6 months of treatment.
Whilst there are different approaches to counselling, the two I mainly deal with are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Person-Centred Therapy.
As your Psychologist I will provide
Similar to a counsellor, as a psychotherapist I will provide a safe environment for you to share your thoughts and concerns, and work towards helping you manage challenging emotional patterns and habits. However, the angle I take will be slightly different to that of a counsellor.
Generally speaking, working as your psychotherapist entails a more in-depth approach. This means that I will turn my focus to emotions and experiences you encountered growing up - as a child or young adult - as well as your presenting symptoms and issues, in order to shed light on how these experiences have shaped who you are today.
I will place an emphasis on creating a space for you to feel comfortable to open up and share experiences from your past. The idea being that once these buried experiences (and their accompanying emotions) are brought to the surface, they can be fully processed, and ultimately, released. For this reason, psychotherapy is normally a frequent and long-term process (6 months to several years), allowing you the time and space to fully open up.