There are many reasons why someone may seek out counselling: perhaps something has happened recently that has left you feeling scared, distressed or confused about life; maybe you’re at a point in your life where you are reflecting on how your experiences have moulded you to become the person you are today. Whatever the reason, it is important to acknowledge that seeking help and support is not an easy thing to do: it takes courage and even taking the first steps can seem frightening and a little overwhelming. Therapeutic relationships offer the opportunity for growth in a way that other relationships may not. They can be very warm, understanding and accepting relationships, where the individual feels able to grow and develop towards the person that they want to be, and away from the person they have always felt they should be.
The very nature of counselling means that you are allowing another person to get to know you, and that could mean letting them see a side to yourself that you have never revealed to anyone else before. It can leave you feeling vulnerable and exposed. This is why it is so important to choose a counsellor that you feel comfortable with. This is not to say that in a first meeting you should feel like you should trust your counsellor with absolutely everything and tell them your darkest secrets straight away: safe, trusting relationships take time to develop, and feeling comfortable with your counsellor may simply mean that you want to see them again next week.
Choosing a counsellor is a way of having some control over your own emotional health and wellbeing, so by all means take some time to reflect on that first meeting. How did you feel before the session? How did you feel afterwards? How do you feel about seeing them again? Did I feel listened to? Did they ‘get’ me? These are all really important questions to ask yourself and may help you to decide on whether that counsellor was right for you. It can sometimes help to meet a few different counsellors to ‘try out’ whether there are particular counselling approaches (for example, psychodynamic, person-centred, cognitive-behavioural therapy) that seem to ‘gel’ with you, or types of personalities that you ‘click’ with better, or even whether having a male or female counsellor adds something to your experience. It is not unusual for people to purposely choose to see a counsellor for a reason that would normally make them feel uncomfortable, for example, seeing a male counsellor when they have had issues with relationships with men in the past. Having this element of discomfort or personal history present in the therapeutic relationship can enable the individual to engage in some very challenging yet rewarding work with their counsellor.
Every therapeutic relationship is different, and unique to the individual and their counsellor. It’s OK to decide that a counsellor is not right for you, whether that’s after the first session or after 20! Equally, it may take that amount of time for you to feel like you can begin to open up to your counsellor: counselling is a process and a journey and we all travel at a different pace. We are constantly changing and so are our needs, so what may have seemed a certain way for us 2 months ago is not necessarily how we feel about it at the moment. It may seem a scary prospect, but if you feel that something is not quite right, think about discussing it with your counsellor. They are there to support you and if something is not working they will want to help you.
This is your journey. Maybe you have a destination, maybe it’s all a little foggy at the moment. Wherever you are and whatever you’re feeling, there is someone out there who wants to help, and it is within your control to decide who that person will be.
Copyright © 2015 Laura Hughes