Reaching the decision to start therapy doesn’t come easily. You may find that you have been contemplating seeing a counsellor for some time, even years. Many people go through stages where a problem feels a problem only at certain times in their life, so it can be difficult to know when you are ready – or if you need therapy at all.
You may move back and forth in your decision before deciding to take the plunge, especially if this is your first experience of counselling. Sadly it can all too often be at the time when you reach breaking point that the realisation that you can’t do this alone becomes apparent.
The best time to see a therapist is long before a crisis happens so you can actually give yourself a chance to develop healthy coping skills and prevent the crisis altogether.
Whatever, your experience, pre-therapy can be an intimidating and challenging time, especially if you are already experiencing anxiety and/or depression. The choice to move on and do something to make your life a happier one requires motivation and commitment, which is something you are likely to have in short supply.
Here are some thoughts to consider for anyone contemplating therapy...
If possible, talk to someone you trust about starting therapy and let them in on what’s been going on for you –if they don’t already know. Starting to open up and talk about your difficulties could demonstrate that it is easier than perhaps you had imagined. Of course, not all of us are lucky to have close trusted family or friends around, and even if we do, talking to someone we know can often be unhelpful. If you do not feel like this would be a positive experience for you, make an appointment with your GP or start to make contact with local registered counsellors.
More often than not, it’ll be the therapist who makes a difference to you, not their chosen approach. Read up on basic approaches and what type of therapy may fit best for the issues you are currently experiencing, but be careful not to put too much emphasis on this. Instead, find your nearest therapists online and have a read of their website, does it feel like they are talking to you? Do you feel you could connect with this person?
If you get a good gut feeling call them for a chat, most counsellors will be very happy to have a quick chat on the phone, meet for a consultation or book in for a one-off session. The relationship between you and the therapist you chose is essential to the success of the therapy so please don’t be afraid to call around a few different therapists – we won’t take offence if you feel we are not right for you.
To pay or not to pay?
While we are incredibly lucky in this country to have the NHS, a referral to see a counsellor will take time. Generally you are looking to wait at least 6 months, voluntary organisations can have a similar waiting time but make enquiries to find out about the support available in your area.
The other option is to pay and therapy costs money. If you can afford to pay for your therapy and you are viewing this as an investment in yourself then I would again advise to choose your therapist based on what your needs are and whether you feel comfortable with him or her, and not on how much they charge.
Money is an issue in therapy and I would suggest you prepare yourself and budget for the number of sessions you may need. Speak to your therapist before committing to get an idea of what they feel you may need. Sadly, clients frequently end sessions as they feel they have spent enough on therapy while still having unresolved issues. It is so important not to end therapy suddenly, speak to your therapist about any financial concerns and they will be able to offer solutions such as seeing you fortnightly, or montly instead of weekly. A professional counsellor will always have your best interests at the forefront of everything they say and do, of course this is our livelihood but ultimately our intention is always to help you. If a therapist has any other motivator they are not going to be successful in their profession.
Be prepared to talk about you.
Therapy takes work; unfortunately just turning up and paying for weekly sessions will not be enough to create meaningful change. Therapy is a collaborative process where the client and counsellor work together. Your therapist may set you tasks to complete in-between sessions, but even if they don’t it is important that you reflect on what you discuss in the session outside of the therapy room. I would suggest doing some reading up before your first session and really contemplate what you are hoping to achieve from the process. Keep a journal and talk to your counsellor about anything you notice, positive changes or negative feelings – everything is welcome in therapy.
I hope this has been useful to anyone out there thinking about starting some counselling, or anyone concerned about someone who may need some support at this time; feel free to share.