The first time you go to see a counsellor might be scary. So we’ve put together some questions that people have asked themselves and their counsellor when they first started a course of counselling.
The largest part of what all counsellors or therapists do is to listen carefully to what you are telling them. They make sure that the client clarifies the problems that they are working on using their own terms, and will then help them decide what steps the client wants to take next. And a good counsellor will always work at your own pace rather than pushing too far too soon.
At our initial free session we will discuss your needs and what expectations you may have. We will also go through how I work, so that you can get to know me a little bit more, and then you can decide whether you would like to work with me and to book further sessions. Once we start the counselling sessions, I will encourage you to talk about your emotions and feelings while I listen and support you with no criticism or judgement. By spending time with a counsellor in this way, you will gain a better understanding of your feelings and thought processes, which leads to identifying deeper solutions to your problems without receiving advice or being told what to do.
This is one of the most common worries about telling your counsellor anything – will they judge me? Will she think I’m an idiot? Or wasting their time? Or a horrible person?
Rest assured – all counsellors are trained to be non-judgemental and to respect differences and diversity. If you do feel judged at all, try to open up and tell your counsellor how you are feeling. That should help sort out any issues between your relationship.
Remember that what you tell your counsellor, how much detail you go into, is always up to you. Take your time and pace yourself as necessary, and you will find that mutual trust will build gradually. Once you feel safer and more confident, you may find that there are many other things that you want to talk about that you hadn’t considered before – which is fantastic!
You’re the best judge over the course of your counselling sessions to know that it is working. But here are some common changes that clients have told us they have noticed:
- I feel less anxious / alone / sad / overwhelmed / angry / frightened / suicidal etc
- I understand and like myself more
- I know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel
- I know that what I experienced was normal and there is nothing wrong with me
- I feel happier
- I am more in control of my emotions
You may also see physical or practical changes as a result of your counselling, for example
- You sleep better
- You don’t argue with people as much
- You can show different emotions that you didn’t think possible
- You don’t self-harm any more
- You get a job
- You eat better
- You socialise more with friends
Talking to a counsellor can help with many different problems, and everyone is different.
Just some of the wide-ranging problems that we help our clients with include:
- anxiety – general anxiety problems, panic attacks, social anxiety, phobias
- relationship issues – breakups, divorce, loneliness, marital problems, life adjustments, arguments, jealousy, polyamory
- depression – including self-harm, suicidal thoughts, low mood
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- abuse – including physical, verbal and sexual abuse
- bereavement / loss / grief
- workplace issues – stress, work/life balance issues
- low self-esteem and lack of confidence
There are many reasons why you might want to talk to a counsellor – you don’t need to be in crisis or on the edge of having one before choosing to have counselling.
Counselling sessions can help you to change old patterns, untangle personal issues, gain some much needed clarity on an issue, or to help you embark on a journey. You might choose to have counselling as a result of a crisis, or you may be encouraged by family, colleagues or friends to start, but you can have counselling for any reason and at any time.
In short, anyone can – there is no barrier to whom counselling can assist. Regardless of your gender, religion, sexual orientation, culture or any other factor, we welcome you.
Counselling is also not just something for adults or individuals – it is beneficial for couples, families, teenagers, and children.
Whether you choose to come to Recommend Counselling or to look elsewhere, there are some important things that you should check.
Your counsellor or therapist should
- have recognised academic qualifications. If you aren’t sure what they are or what they mean, ask them!
- adhere to a professional code of conduct
- have regular supervision sessions to ensure that they are following safe and ethical practise. Again don’t be afraid to ask your counsellor about how this works and what it means, if you are unclear about anything
- be open and honest with you from the start before you both make any commitment to each other. This might include
- how your counsellor works and what approaches they might use
- any issues about confidentiality
- their fees
- the length and frequency of the sessions
- your responsibilities to them
- their responsibilities to you
Quite often talking things over with a friend can be helpful, and counsellors may encourage clients to use their family and friends for support. But there are some disadvantages of relying on family and friends as your only support or confidant.
Family and friends may have a conflict of loyalty, and they may also find it difficult to keep things that you tell them confidential. They may be upset by the things that you tell them, and also may become upset if you do not accept their advice and guidance.
A trained counsellor will have a formal support and work structure which helps them to deal with difficult and upsetting situations, and are bound by a professional code of conduct relating to confidentiality. With a friend you may not want to tell them something for fear of overburdening them if they have their own problems to work through, but with a counsellor you know that this will not be an issue.
A counsellor is not there to give you advice, to tell you what to do, or to judge you at all. The aim of counselling is to help the client come to their own decision (or decisions), because only you know how you feel in a particular situation.
Your counsellor may sum up what they understand you have said so that they can help you form a plan of action, but will not give you advice or tell you what to do as part of your plan.
The number of sessions will depend on your unique circumstances and needs – we often recommend an initial six sessions with a review after that time.
It will also depend on the type of therapy that you choose to try. Some therapy techniques are designed to be short-term and can last as little as six weeks, whereas some therapies tend to be much longer term. Many last for several months or even years, but we will always regularly review progress throughout the counselling sessions.
Once you start having counselling sessions, it is not uncommon for new issues and angles to appear which you were not aware of when you started the sessions, and you may then want to explore these. It is possible to see improvement faster than you expected, though, which is why we review your progress periodically.
Yes. We are bound by a strong professional code of conduct and ethics, which means that what you tell us remains confidential.
The only exception are if you were to pose a danger to yourself or others or where we have a legal duty to notify the appropriate relevant parties, for example in cases of money laundering or terrorism-related activity.
Absolutely not. Frequently, doctors will suggest counselling together with medication for anxiety and / or depression, which are typically used to alleviate the symptoms. By exploring your thoughts, behaviours and feelings, counselling can help to understand the causes of the symptoms and to then remove these causes.
Sometimes we are concerned about someone close to us and their well being, and think that they need to see a counsellor. However it is best for the individual if they can recognise that they need support and reach out for it on their own. We can take enquiries from you on behalf of someone else, providing you have their full consent.
If you feel that you need to suggest to someone that they should seek counselling, try to do it in a calm manner and in a private moment. Express your concerns in a judgement-free way, and back up your concerns with facts rather than hearsay. Make it clear to them that you support him or her and want to see them feeling better, and then leave them to make the decision on their own.