For many people, deciding to see a therapist is a major step in their lives, one they may not be completely comfortable with at first. Too often, common perception is that seeking psychological help means that there is something seriously “wrong” with you. Nothing could be further from the truth as, nowadays, it is used to alleviate a wide range of everyday problems such as fear of flying for example. Be that as it may, knowing what to expect during your first session will help you feel more comfortable and enable you to make the most of it.
The Therapist’s Goals
First, let’s dispel some myths: you won’t be expected to lie down on a stiff, leather couch with a stern, silent therapist sitting by your head!
There may be a couch, and if you want to lie down, it is up to you, but the point is that therapy has evolved a lot since Freud and Jung. There are various schools of thoughts and therapy approaches, and although you will still find practitioners who favour a more disengaged method and will let you talk with little feedback, counselling now tends to be more of a guided dialogue.
Whether you come as an individual, for couple counselling or family counselling, the general outline of the first session will be the same, although the dynamics will be unique. Your therapist’s objective will be to assess your situation and state of mind, and understand what you would like help with, and in order to so, they will ask you questions about yourself and your life.
The reason why you are seeking therapy will obviously matter a great deal, as it will not only reveal the “surface” problem, but even more importantly which deeper issues may lay beneath.
Past and present family circumstances play an essential role in shaping us and your therapist will also ask you a series of questions about your background and current situation. If you have come for couple counselling and family therapy, it will be an opportunity to observe your interactions.
The therapist will also try to gauge the extent of your difficulties, i.e., how much it affects other areas of your life or your health for example.
At the end of the session, the therapist may make an initial diagnosis and should suggest a treatment plan as well as clarify how he or she works, and how they would approach your problem.
How About You?
It is very important that you come to therapy with the right expectations to make it work for you.
First of all, it is important to understand that, in order to be effective, therapy will require your active participation. You may be quieter than usual in your initial session (and for some time to come), and it is absolutely fine, but without your honest, open answers, your therapist won’t be able to help you. They are trained to pick up on the meaning behind the words, but they can’t read minds!
Doing some preparation before the session can also be beneficial, if only to think about what you would like support with. You may find that taking your notes with you will help you remember everything you want to cover but don’t worry about them too much though, it is not an essay, but a useful starting point for both you and your therapist.
It is also very important that you find out from your therapist how he or she works. As mentioned above, there are many approaches, and you need to make sure that theirs will be suitable for your issue. For example, if you are struggling with deeply-rooted problems, a practitioner using a solution-based discipline such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), for example, may not be the best fit and long-term therapy may be more appropriate.
Therapy is about exploring feelings, and another essential component of successful work is to feel comfortable with your therapist. Of course, it takes time to trust people, but your intuition will tell you whether you believe them and you think they can help you. Either way, discussing it during your first session may provide insightful information.
Remember that therapy is a safe, non-judgmental environment. None of your feelings and worries are unimportant, and your therapist’s only goal is to help you.
Most important of all, it is essential to understand that therapy isn’t a quick fix and one session won’t work miracles. The principle of counselling is to take you on a journey for you to uncover and integrate what the root issue of a problem is, and even if your therapist knows what it is long before you do, them “telling” you won’t help you.
If you are looking for counselling in Auckland City, contact Robert Street Clinic or call us on 09 973 5950.