Counselling truly has the power to change your life. Across the globe, more and more people recognize this. Indeed, a recent poll found that almost half of Americans had sought mental health care in the last year alone! Though 20% of Australians experience a mental illness in any given year, our country remains behind the curve when it comes to mental health care. Therapy remains somewhat stigmatized, and many Australians mistakenly believe that you have to be “crazy” to seek counselling. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone can benefit from counselling, and odds are good that counselling will look nothing like what you’ve feared—or what you’ve seen on TV.
If you’re considering therapy and wondering what to expect from your first session, you can always give Three Seas a call. We’re happy to walk you through the process. No matter where you go, though, here’s what to expect.
Your First Session
The first session is a chance to get to know your therapist, share the basics of the challenges you face, and determine whether this counsellor is a good fit for you and your needs. You’ll probably fill out some paperwork, learn about the policies and procedures of the clinic you’ve chosen, and outline a rough treatment plan. It’s unlikely, though, that you’ll delve too deeply into your challenges, so try not to get too excited about the first session. Instead, use this session to ask lots of questions and learn as much as you can about what lies ahead.
A Few Basics
If you’re new to counselling, you might be concerned about your privacy, safety, or other factors. Here are some rules that all good counsellors, no matter what they believe or whom they treat, do:
- Counselling is confidential under the law, which means your therapist can’t tell other people what you said without your permission.
- Your counsellor is not allowed to be your friend, or to engage in a romantic relationship with you.
- Your therapist should not contact third parties about you.
- Your therapist should work with any other medical professionals who are helping you, such as your psychiatrist.
More Than Just Feelings
In the popular imagination, therapy is little more than lying on a couch endlessly discussing your feelings and problems. But therapy is about a lot more than your feelings. Instead, your therapist will work with you to identify the specific problems you face, then help you create a master plan for successfully tackling these challenges.
Change Your Attitudes, Change Your Behavior
It might be hard to believe right now, but what you think affects what you do. And what you do affects the rest of your life. This doesn’t mean all of your problems are your fault, but the way you react to others affects how they treat you. For instance, a very anxious person might inadvertently alienate her friends, leading to even more anxiety. Therapy helps you identify problematic attitudes, then works with you—always at your own pace—to change these problematic attitudes so that you can change your behavior—and your life.
The Importance of the Therapy Relationship
No one has perfect relationships, and if you’re seeking counselling, odds are better than average that at least a few of your relationships are a source of stress and pain. You can’t change how other people behave, but you can adopt coping skills, all while exploring how your own reactions might affect the behavior of others. Your relationship with your therapist is a safe space to explore how you deal wit others. Through this relationship, certain issues may come to light. For instance, if your therapist notices that you’re always defensive when talking about your job, he or she can help you understand what this defensive attitude reveals about your emotions, as well as how it might affect your relationship with others. Over time, you’ll learn better coping skills and gain mastery over your most important relationships.
Proactive Counselling and Homework
The best counselling isn’t limited to just a session or two a week. Instead, your counsellor should be working with you, on an ongoing basis, to change the way you handle life’s challenges. One of the best ways to do this is to give you homework. You might, for instance, be asked to notice how often you complain, or to practice apologizing three times during the week. Doing this homework—in addition to taking every chance you have to practice the skills you’re learning in therapy—can help you steadily sculpt the life you want and deserve.