I can remember the feelings of fear I felt before my first visit to a therapist in 2008. What would this person think of me if I told them the truth? Would they judge me? Would they think I’m mad?
The truth was the opposite, she was honest but understanding; direct but compassionate and her number one goal was help me to develop in a more positive and healthy way.
With that in mind, when new clients come in, this is what they can expect from a session with me:
It’s anxious enough visiting a therapist for the first time, but having to travel through evening traffic and then find a parking spot in a new area will only exacerbate those feelings. I try to help my clients feel relaxed so that they know there is no pressure to jump into anything. If I feel the client is highly stressed, I might perform a simple breathing set to fill their lunges with air and regulate their mental state.
Get to the root
Ultimately the client is there for a reason. I tend to avoid a formal introduction and just allow them to say what’s on their mind. The relationship is formed, not through discussing each others background, but by reflecting on what is happening in their lives now and how we both honestly view their situation. I encourage my clients to be 100% truthful; it saves time in the therapeutic process and is the first step towards building healthy self-esteem.
A note on Judgement
I DON’T JUDGE. I honestly couldn’t care less about any mistake you have EVER made in your life (I’ve made plenty myself). What I do care about is helping you understand how life has brought you to a place where you made certain choices and how new choices can be made with this awareness.
Understand the family system
Your family home is the foundation where your development needs should have been met. In our sessions, we will explore your family background as it helps to slowly build a picture of what needs were deprived e.g. emotional stability, peace of mind, patience, etc. and this then determines how we will proceed with the therapy.
Review current lifestyle
Our habits are who we are; food, sleep, exercise, work, hobbies, etc. are all key components of life and help me get a sense of the person, and if they have unhealthy habits which might be adding to their current issues. An extreme example of this is a client who was waking up in the middle of the night with a racing heart; he was drinking 15 cups of coffee a day but didn’t make the connection.
Set realistic expectations
It’s important that you know what to expect from therapy. The truth is that as we are all unique and thus the change you may experience is unique. Some people try counselling for a couple of sessions and feel it’s of no benefit. Some walk away after 5 sessions and feel it has helped them deeply. It’s relative to how involved the client gets in the therapeutic process and how much time they commit to change.
Fill the in-take form
The intake form is an important requirement. It includes contact details but also next of kin details and your medical history. These are all important facts which are needed to ensure I can provide help but also protect you.
Agree the contract
The contract contains 3 key items which must be discussed in order for us to work together:
• Confidentiality – Counselling only works if there is no fear of the information being shared outside of the therapy room. It’s important to verbalize this but also stipulate the conditions where this confidentiality may broken, i.e. if there is a fear the client will hurt themselves or someone else or when I’m performing a work review with my supervisor.
• Cancellation – If you can’t make a session or even if you just don’t feel up to it, it’s important to let me know, it means the time can be used to help another client. (24 hours notice)
Agree to work together
I put absolutely no pressure on any of my clients to come back. I want them to return only if they feel comfortable, if they feel they can trust me and if they are happy the process would be beneficial. Some clients are happy that the ability to express themselves during the initial session is enough but I would encourage anyone who has made the first step to continue for a few more sessions, it might be the most important decision you make in your adult life.
Hope this helps anyone considering trying Psychotherapy.