Starting counselling can be very stressful. Often it comes after months on a waiting list and it’s entirely feasible that the original motivation for your therapy has long since ceased to dominate your daily life. That doesn’t mean that the work doesn’t still need to be done. For some people, starting that process will be a massive relief, for others it presents multiple challenges, mixed feelings and a lot of anxiety. Having been through the process various times in recent years, here are a few pointers that might help alleviate the anxiety of the hot seat:
- Housekeeping: Make sure that you know all the administrative details in advance of your session i.e. where it will take place, cost, time constraints, cancellation policies etc. Minimising any complications ahead of time will help it to be a therapeutic, rather than anxiety-ridden experience.
- What a girl wants: To make most effective use of your sessions, you should spend some time thinking about what you see as the ideal outcome. It will help you to have an overarching focus or theme during your sessions. Some examples might be: ‘I want to feel more confident in social situations’ or ‘I want to learn to recognise toxic people around me’.
- Talking therapy: It’s called talking therapy for a reason – that’s what you’re there for. Try to think of your therapist as a sounding board. They aren’t there to judge or to advise you, but to help you recognise where you are and what you’re struggling with.
- It’s not you, it’s them: If you don’t feel comfortable with the therapist that you are allocated (if you go through your GP or a large organisation) then it is totally fine to ask to see someone else. It’s not a personal affront, it’s your preference and it is ALL ABOUT YOU.
- A room of one’s own: Just like finding the right therapist to work with, the space in which you do it is also important. Taking the time to make the space your own should make you feel safe, as well as powerful. It might be helpful to bring some home comforts with you, such as a pair of slippers, a favourite blanket or scarf to get cosy with. If you fancy it, essential oils can be helpful for calming or energising.
Above all, there are no rules. Counselling is an intensely personal process that should be both challenging and supportive. It’s a self-centric, but by no means selfish endeavour. Pull up a chair and get stuck in!