Why would I decide to spend an hour a week going over difficult stuff with a stranger? It would be so embarrassing – what will he/she think about me droning on about all my ‘issues’? Aren’t there more fun ways to spend my hard-earned money? Do I really want to stir things up when life’s hard enough already? She/he won’t understand me anyway – no-one ever does. I should just pull myself together and get on with it. There are loads of people who have more serious problems than I do – and they all seem to manage fine.
It’s a big step to start counselling. You’ll probably be weighing up some of the thoughts above. You’ve probably got to the point in your life where something isn’t working, and you’re wondering if things could be different, but actually taking the plunge to contact a therapist feels pretty scary.
You could start by finding out a bit more about the many different types of therapy that are available. Would you prefer a time-limited approach, or might you like to embark on some sessions and see where they take you? Do you want to see someone more than once a week, or might it be enough to talk to someone on the phone? Would you respond best to being given strategies and tools? Would you like to share your feelings and see what patterns and themes can be uncovered?
Counselling Directory offers a summary of different kinds of therapy here http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counselling.html and by reading this you’ll get a sense of what you think will work best for you. Once you have more of an idea of what type of therapy you’re looking for, you can find the counsellors in your area on websites such as Counselling Directory. Some therapists have links to their websites, where you can read more about their approach. You might want to give some of them a call and see if they sound like the kind of person you’d be able to work with.
You may be nervous at the beginning – you don’t know what to expect. Share your fears with your counsellor. Explain that there’s part of you that wants to sit there, and another part that would rather be almost anywhere else. Ask your counsellor about the process, tell them that you’re uncertain about what might happen, and see if they can reassure you about how the sessions will evolve. Their training and experience will help them to make you feel as comfortable as possible, and by understanding as much as they can about where you’re coming from, they’ll be able to tailor their approach to your needs. And don’t forget that you’re in control all along – you can stop the sessions whenever you like.
Once you start working together, you will develop a relationship with your counsellor, and this will vary according to their style. Some counsellors are more directive than others, some will offer specific strategies or techniques, and some will gently draw your attention to recurring themes they have noticed. What you should find with any counsellor is that they will listen carefully to what you have to say, and from their responses you will have the feeling that they are ‘getting’ you, doing their very best to understand exactly how things are for you. This process can be enormously powerful – for some people it’s the first time in their lives that they’re sitting with someone who wants to know more about how they feel about things. It may be difficult at first to trust the counsellor, to share painful thoughts and feelings, but a good therapeutic experience will allow you to open up gradually, to take things at your own pace. And this is how I feel counselling works – you have a chance to explore your needs and desires in a safe place, and your counsellor helps you to find a way forward that makes sense for you.