OK, so you’ve negotiated choosing a counsellor, you’ve made contact and its nearly time for your appointment… How do you feel?
I know we are not all the same but many clients say they feel nervous, anxious, uneasy, and uncomfortable. Many are kind of excited (often if they have been waiting a while) for some its all a bit much and these clients can “DNA”, that is they do not attend and they do not inform the counsellor.
So I thought… I wonder if I could try to take some of the fear of the unknown away? Maybe make that first step easier and less angst-ridden.
First things, maybe it might make sense to check out practicalities before the day:
- How am I travelling to my appointment?
- If driving, where can I park?
- Is it ok to take someone with me?
- Will my companion be able to come into my session with me, be asked to wait in reception or have to wait in the car or a nearby café?
- Is there a toilet?
- Is there a waiting room?
- Are there stairs or a lift?
- Is the room hot or cold?
- Are there windows?
- Is there water available?
- Are there tissues available?
- What are the seating arrangements? (in case of difficulties)
- How much will my session be?
- When do I pay, and if at the appointment do I need cash with me?
- How long will my appointment be?
Phew, that list seems long, but they are all questions that I have asked either for myself or that clients themselves have asked me.
Having been a client myself, I remember how nerve-wracking meeting my counsellor was, I remember the acute embarrassment I felt and how I felt completely at a loss as to how to proceed. This was not a social situation that I felt prepared for. So as a Counsellor I do my very best to make my clients feel at ease and welcome. Once we have entered the room and my client is comfortably seated it is time for the session to begin…
You might arrive and just be off and running, just like you’ve turned the tap on and your story just comes out in one big stream of consciousness. That’s OK! Or perhaps you’ll feel shy, nervous, scared, embarrassed, and no words come. And that’s OK too…
If I get the feeling you would like me to start the conversation what I will do is take you through some ideas about how the counselling agreement should work. Some people use the word contracting; I personally don’t like using this term, as to me it sounds legal and intimidating. Here’s a few of the things I’ll briefly explain about:
- protecting your confidentiality
- record keeping
- what I ask you to do to keep your side of the agreement (giving notice if unable to attend, costs etc.)
- what I will do in order to keep my side (punctuality, professionalism, reliability)
Don’t fret, in either case I will give you this information in written form to take away with you. Often clients say they remember very little of the first 5 or so minutes, but I think this kind of routine and chatter eases and settles my client and gives them time to gather themselves. Also, at some point in the first meeting I will begin to explain a little about how I work and my “Person Centred-ness”.
The most important thing about your first session is meeting your counsellor and checking out whether a therapeutic relationship1 is possible. There is more discussion of this in “Pick a counsellor… Any counsellor?“.
1. The therapeutic relationship, also called the helping alliance, the therapeutic alliance, and the working alliance, refers to the relationship between a healthcare professional and a client (or patient). It is the means by which a therapist and a client hope to engage with each other, and effect beneficial change in the client. Wikipedia
Rubik’s Cube image by William Warby under CC BY 2.0