Many people come into counselling feeling nervous and uncertain of what to expect. More often than not people consider counselling when they have a problem and are feeling vulnerable and uncertain. Counselling isn’t only useful in times of crisis, it can be a way exploring different ways of dealing with the world, or managing new situations. Whatever the reason for choosing counselling it can be very nerve racking coming through the door on the first session, so what can you expect?
There are many different counselling models and it can be confusing to consider which one might be best, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has a useful website, www.bacp.co.uk which explains the models and gives tips on finding the right person to work with. Some G.P. surgeries offer a counselling service to patients although this may be for very specific issues, but it is worth checking with your G.P. or medical centre. Local counselling centres may be able to offer certain types of counselling for free or at a subsidised rate, check when you phone to see what might be available. Private counselling practitioners will charge for their profession time.
The initial counselling session will help to set the scene, look at the key issues that have brought the person or couple or family into counselling, and decide the best way forward. It is a chance for the counsellor and the client to check each other out, talk through what is possible and decide on how and when they might work together. It’s worth thinking about the questions you want to raise and how you what to explain the issues you are facing before going to the session. It is unlikely that the first session will bring a resolution to the issues but it may offer a sense of hopefulness.
If you and the counsellor feel that it would be helpful to work together subsequent sessions will be agreed at the end of the initial meeting. In some counselling models a six or eight session block of time will be offered. Sessions are usually at the same time each week, at the same place, and will provide “safe”, uninterrupted time in a comfortable environment. The discussions between you and the counsellor are confidential and won’t be shared with family, employer or GP. However confidentiality cannot be absolute and there are exceptions.
Counsellors may involve other agencies of the client is at risk or if they present a risk to another, for example a child or a vulnerable person. It is important to talk through confidentiality issues early in the counselling agreement. Professional counsellors work to an ethical framework and are supervised in the work they do to make sure they are meeting professional standards and are keeping their clients safe.
Counselling is not about giving advice or recommending what to do. A counsellor will help you to explore you feelings and thoughts without judging you. Counsellors are trained to work empathetically, which is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective.
Article by Sue Reed