Worried about booking your first session? This will help!
Booking your first counselling appointment can be very daunting and anxiety-provoking. If you feel that you would benefit from counselling but worry about where to begin, this blog post is for you.
First of all, it takes a lot of courage to admit to yourself and others that you need help. In today’s society, we can feel like we are meant to go it alone and just be able to deal with whatever life throws at us. Humans are social creatures and we need support, encouragement, and love from ourselves and other people. When you being to realise you might need to speak to a counsellor, you may feel anxious or fearful of what might lie ahead. You may have an idea of what counselling is based on what others have told you or what you have read on the internet.
Counselling is a journey that you take with your counsellor. You are the leader in this journey because no one knows your life as you do. Your counsellor is there to listen, offer guidance and support. Counsellors are not there to tell you what to do or to fix your life for you but they are there to hold your hand while you figure it all out for yourself. This way, you are in control and you hold your power at all times. Counsellors offer you a safe space to express your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. They build a therapeutic relationship with you, this means that they build trust and they do not judge you, they accept you just as you are. When finding the courage to book your appointment, remember that you are in control, you don’t have to go through this alone and you are taking a huge step towards making changes for the better.
You can pay for counselling or you can contact charities or your GP to access free counselling.
Free therapy sounds great but because it is free, there is usually a long waiting list. Some charities that offer free counselling may have students on placements working there. I would like to say, please do not be put off by a student counsellor, they are constantly learning and bettering themselves as practitioners. In cases of severe mental illness, I would recommend a counsellor who has been in practice for a while as they may be more experienced in dealing with certain severe and complex cases such as suicidal ideation, trauma and personality disorders. Usually, with free therapy, there are a set amount of sessions (usually 6-12 sessions) and the most used type of therapy is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and you may not be able to choose your counsellor.
Paying for therapy can be expensive but there are usually fewer waiting lists. Some counsellors offer a sliding scale for those on low income and some offer student discounts. The average hourly rate is different for every area and some counsellors may have had more training or have more experience than others which may lead them to charge more. Work out your finances and see if you can afford private therapy or if you may need to contact a charity for free therapy. When paying for therapy, you can usually have as many sessions as necessary; you can choose your counsellor and the type of therapy they use.
What kind of therapy?
There are many different types of therapy out there.
If you opt for free counselling, you are most likely to receive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This therapy is most effective for anxiety and depression but can also be used for panic attacks, anger management, phobias, stress, PTSD, bipolar disorder and psychosis among other issues.
Person-centered counselling is focused on feelings and working on the relationship between the client and counsellor. This looks at building trust, being honest and open and showing empathy. This type of therapy is good for issues such as low mood, self-worth, anxiety, grief, relationship problems, anger issues, transitions in life and sexuality among other issues.
Transactional Analysis is a form of psychotherapy and is focused on personality and the relationships between people. Transactional Analysis can help with issues around relationships, self-esteem, changing patterns of behaviour, communication issues among other issues.
Hypnotherapy is not counselling but can be used alongside. The hypnotherapist helps you to get into a relaxed state where your conscious and unconscious mind can work together. This is a safe form of therapy. The issues that can be helped with Hypnotherapy are addictions, self-esteem, anxiety, phobias and bad habits among other things.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming) is a form of counselling used to treat people who have suffered from severe trauma and PTSD.
Couples Counselling can be used to help couples become closer, to help with communication issues, sex issues and issues around unfaithfulness among other issues.
Family Counselling can be used to help families become closer, communication issues, help with children who have suffered abuse in the past, teaching play therapy techniques amongst other issues.
Integrative Therapy is when a counsellor is trained in different therapeutic theories, for example, they may know about CBT and Person-Centered and they use these together to tailor the counselling to the client. This is useful for a person who does not know what type of therapy is best for them and this type covers a huge range of issues.
This is not a complete list; these are just some of the different types of therapies out there. You can Google search “which type of counselling is best for...” and see what it comes up with. YouTube is also a great place to learn about the different types of therapy out there. There are a lot and some may cost more than others so be mindful of that.
So, you have built up the courage, checked you can afford it and chose the type of therapy you want/need, now is time to find a counsellor. Finding someone you get along with is very important. Some counsellors offer a free consultation, some offer a cheaper first session and some will offer a free phone call. They are all different. You don’t have to settle for the first counsellor you come across. If your counsellor asks if you would like to book another appointment after the consultation, it is perfectly okay to say “Is it okay if I go away and think about it a little more and I will contact you?” your counsellor will not be offended or hurt by this. As a counsellor I would rather my client feel comfortable with me and if not, to find someone else that they feel more comfortable with.
Sometimes clients can be fearful of disappointing, hurting or offending their counsellor. Please know that we are trained professionals and we understand the needs of the client. We will not be offended if you told us that you didn’t want to come back to counselling or that you would like to take some time out of counselling. We appreciate the honesty over anything else and we want what is best for the client – if that means they find a cheaper, more qualified counsellor who they get along with better then that is okay.
Once you have all of these things in place, contact the counsellor you have chosen in whatever way feels right for you. Make sure that you briefly let them know the issue you would like to bring to counselling so that they can be sure that they can help you.
Well done! You did it! You are on your way to a better version of yourself. Don't forget, you are in control and I wish you well on your counselling journey.
I have included a list of Counselling Directories below and some charities that offer either free or donations based counselling sessions.
https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/ - A directory of private counsellors
https://www.bacp.co.uk/search/Therapists - A directory of private counsellors registered with the BACP
https://www.beacon-counselling.org.uk/ - Beacon - a charity that accepts donations based fees
https://www.penninecare.nhs.uk/healthyminds - Healthy Minds - NHS free counselling. You can self-refer.
https://talklistenchange.org.uk/enquire - TLC - A charity that offers a sliding scale to those on low income
https://www.samaritans.org/ - The Samaritans - A charity. Freephone counselling and if you are in crisis, please call The Samaritans on 116 123 open 24/7