Many people coming to counselling for the first time are not sure what to expect. In these pages, I hope to demystify some of what goes on in a counselling session with me.
In our first session, a free-half hour consultation, I will ask you to outline the issues you seek help with and your desired outcome from counselling. You will also have to sign a confidentiality agreement and I will give you a copy of my disclosure statement. You will have an opportunity to ask me any questions you like about the process, my education and experience, and my way of working. I see this meeting as a job interview, where you are choosing whether to hire me. The comfortable connection between client and counselor is a key ingredient to a successful counselling process. If you decide I am not the right counselor for you, I will offer you referrals to colleagues that may be more suitable.
In our first meeting, I will listen carefully and to understand you from your point of view (ie, absent of personal biases and judgments). I will ask more questions about your history, your family/friend relationships, your work, and your current stressors and coping skills. Together, we will clarify your goals for counselling, understanding that these may change as the process unfolds. I will give you an overview of some of the methods I will use to help you get there. We can also discuss how many sessions it may take to reach these goals. I can work with a solution-focused approach to shorten the number of sessions necessary.
Together, we will work to shift perspectives, practice new behaviors, understand the mind and how it works, become clear on feelings and motivations, and identify a way forward. This is done simply through conversation, where you will be truly listened to and the focus will be 100% on your situation. I think of myself as walking your path alongside you, holding a lamp to light the way. My “light” includes my education in understanding the mind and how we change, human relationship dynamics, mental illness, trauma recovery, and my years of experience in helping others find a way through.
I will often offer you optional “homework”, either behaviors to practice, goals to meet, reading to do, or self-care activities to complete between sessions. Between sessions, I will also do homework so that I come to each session prepared with some new ideas and exercises to help with your unique situation. Each session will be different, and I let you take the lead in what you want to talk about each week.
Each individual learns differently and presents with unique strengths and challenges, so I adapt counselling to suit your specific needs and personality. Along the way, I seek feedback and we adapt the counselling goals if necessary. Sometimes, it will be hard as you face painful realities; other times, you will experience relief and even inspiration as you regain a sense of control over your situation, and new ideas for how to approach your problems.
The counselling relationship is one I regard as sacred and special. I am honored that clients allow me into the parts of their lives that are difficult to share, and I deeply respect that trust and vulnerability. Having experienced counselling myself, I know how difficult it can be to take this step. If you have any more questions about the process, I encourage you to contact me and arrange a free half-hour consultation by phone or in person.
For more about the process with couples and families, click here.
For more about the process with survivors of trauma or crime victims, click here.