How To Go to Counselling Part I: Preparing for counselling
One of my favourite things about being a counsellor is working with folks who have never been to counselling before. I am always so jazzed (and in awe) that people take such a big leap of faith and make it into the office. I know from experience that it can be terrifying and terribly vulnerable to step into a room with a stranger and tell them about what’s going on. So how do you get ready for that?
Choosing a counsellor
Looking for a counsellor is pretty overwhelming - there are so many of them out there, and it can be hard to tell who might be the right one for you. At Peak Resilience, we’ve tried to simplify that by each writing a bit about who we are, posting individual videos (even the bloopers!), and having a ‘finding the right counsellor’ tool where you can answer some questions and get a personalized recommendation. We recognize that you’re a unique human, and that what will work for you depends a lot on...well, you. Sometimes it’s about finding someone who has a similar sense of humour, or maybe someone who gets what it’s like to be a parent, or even someone who just has a certain something that speaks to you. Really, the best thing to do is go with your gut (if you want to read more about how to tell your counsellor is a good fit for you, stay tuned for the next post in this series!).
So...what brings you in?
You don’t have to come in with an itemized list of super specific goals. They’re also not set in stone. But before you come in, it can be helpful to spend some time reflecting on what it is you want from counselling. Some helpful questions to ask yourself: What hasn’t been working well for you lately? If you woke up tomorrow and things were different, what would you want life look like? What do you want or expect from your counsellor?
Structuring your day
It can be tempting to schedule counselling into an already tight day (like sneaking in laundry or picking up groceries on your lunch break). I get it - you’re busy, and it’s hard to fit everything in! But that can get pretty overwhelming, and can make it tough to make it to your appointment. Maybe a meeting runs long and you don’t get your break that day, or you only left 10 minutes to commute and the bridge is packed again.
So how can you prioritize yourself? It can make for a whole different experience to take some time and space for yourself in your day, rather than putting self care (and yourself) at the bottom of the list. It can be particularly nice to leave buffer room so you have time to reflect after your session, and let things settle in before you jump back into a hectic day.
Don’t know what to talk about?
So you pick a counsellor that you gel with, you schedule a nice chunk of ‘me time’ to come to counselling, and then you sit on the couch and...dang it, you don’t know what to talk about! Sometimes this can be a sign that your life is so busy you don’t even have time to think about what’s going on. Days are just flying by and you’re doing your best to keep on top of your to-do list, nevermind thinking about what you’re working on in counselling.
You probably won’t want to go
Even when you’re doing important work with a counsellor you connect well with, sometimes you just won’t want to go. Jennifer has written about this before: it’s pretty normal to feel nervous, or to think ‘I just don’t have the energy for this’ or ‘I don’t want to feel my feelings today!’ If you can bring yourself in, it can even be helpful to talk about that resistance or apprehension with your counsellor. What purpose does it serve? And how can you keep showing up for yourself even when it’s super hard?
This is just the beginning of a series about how to go to counselling - stay tuned for the next post about how to tell if your counsellor is a good fit for you.
Amanda Hamm is a registered clinical counsellor who works towards making counselling more relatable, approachable, and just a tiny bit more human.