Preparing for Counselling
I want to start counselling but I’m a bit apprehensive – how can I prepare myself?
A Bundle of Nerves
Dear A Bundle of Nerves,
Congratulations – making the decision to reach out for support, in whatever way you think is best, is the hardest part of the process! Getting prepared for what happens next is easy! Here are some suggestions to help:
About an hour before your session, gather your thoughts. Reconnect with the issues that brought you to counselling. Has there been something bothering you? Was there something that came up after the last session that you want to revisit? Recognize the thoughts that are racing through your mind or the feelings that your body is experiencing. Don’t worry if you struggle to do this – your therapist can also help guide you through this inner connection process.
Imagine an open door. Many people spend their lives putting up walls to hide their true thoughts/feelings from others. Our need to feel like we are in control sometimes prevents us from connecting to our emotions. The counselling office is a safe place to let down your guard. Visualize an openness happening inside of yourself, as scary as that might seem. And create an intentional willingness to lean on your therapist for your emotional needs. You are not alone with your feelings – your therapist will help you close back up again (to a healthy degree) before you leave.
The session will usually begin with some small talk. This allows the therapist to connect with you and to help you get grounded/focused on yourself (which can be a challenge for some people). You might be asked about any highlights in your life since the last session (what’s new – positively or negatively). But it is entirely up to you how the session begins. If you are in crisis/stressed out, you can jump straight to the problem and skip the small talk. Your therapist understands.
Get comfortable. You do NOT need to dress up for your therapist. Wear clothing that allows you to squirm around easily, sit cross legged or lean back comfortably. Sometimes, people sweat when they get emotional, so layering helps. The counselling office will have a couch or big chairs that have been specifically chosen to allow you to find a soothing position while you are talking. There is usually a pillow or blanket available for you to wrap up in or to hug, so use them if you want to.
Don’t worry about your hair or makeup. You might cry (sometimes out of pain/sadness and sometimes just from nervousness) – that’s okay and very normal. The therapist will have lots of tissue available (and there is always a garbage can so you don’t need to use your purse or pockets). There is also always a bathroom available. If you are worried about how you look at the end of the session, it’s perfectly fine to ask to freshen up a bit.
It’s okay to bring a soothing drink. Most therapists’ offices make water available, but you are also welcome to bring a tea or coffee or your favourite beverage (alcohol is not recommended LOL) to help you stay hydrated and to provide you with something calming/soothing to sip on as a distraction or as a self care mechanism, while you are talking.
If you are accessing therapy online, create a space that is comfortable for you. Make sure you have the privacy that you need (no one wants others overhearing what is being shared). Rest your device on a firm surface, so you don’t have to hold onto it for the hour. Wrap yourself up in a cozy blanket, hold a pillow, bring your cat/dog into your space to keep you company, if you wish. Make sure the Kleenex is handy and you have something to sip on, within easy reach.
After therapy, create time and space to decompress. Sessions can be physically draining and emotionally exhausting. So, give yourself time to winddown after the counselling process, before you jump back into the busy-ness of your life. Write down important a-ha moments you might have had while they are fresh. Stretch, drink some water and maybe have a little snack. Your energy levels need to time to reset, so listen to some music, connect with a friend or sit and do something relaxing for a little while, after every session. If you don’t take good care of yourself, who will?
Have a question? Please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You answer will be provided confidentially.
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