FAQs and the First Session
What do I need to begin?
As we're meeting online, all you need is to have an internet enabled device, such as a phone, tablet or laptop. As long as I can hear your voice, and you are able to hear mine, we can work together. Ideally, it would be helpful if I could see you too, and your device allowed you to see me.
If you are working with me as part of a couple, I suggest the most ideal set up for you would be sharing a laptop on your side as this will allow the best sound and image quality.
In terms of your physical space, privacy is key. I understand this is sometimes tricky to get, especially in shared households. I've worked with individuals who sat in their car or went for a walk to gain the privacy needed to speak freely. I also fully appreciate the difficulty in being a caregiver for children whilst trying to have therapy. Ideally, you would be able to ask someone else to watch over your children whilst engaging in therapy, but if this is impossible during any given session, let me know and we will discuss ways to allow you to speak with me whilst ensuring our conversations aren't overheard.
What happens in the first session?
The first session can bring up feelings of nervousness, dread, anxiety, worry. When we meet for the first time, I will be very aware of how strange an experience it may be for you to talk to me initially.
You may be surprised to know that some of the nerves will be shared; I will be nervously hoping that the session goes well for you too. Please know that this is completely natural and most likely these feelings will begin to ease.
During our first session, I will ask questions which will be both practical and as a way of getting to know you and what you would like to get from counselling. I will ask to gain a sense of what has brought you to counselling and what you're hoping to gain, but please know this is just the start of the conversation. It usually takes a little time to be able to verbalise all the reasons for coming to therapy; we live complicated lives and it takes time to untangle all of our thoughts.
What paperwork are you filling out during our first session and why?
Before we meet, I will send you a Working Agreement, Assessment Form and an Information Sheet. During our first meeting, I will be filling out the Assessment Form, which asks for information such as GP, emergency contact and your goals in coming to therapy. The reason I ask us to go through this sheet in our first session is for the following reasons:
-To establish a safe working relationship between us
-To ensure that I work in a way that will meet your needs
-To be able to act should an emergency occur
-To give you the opportunity to reflect on the progress you make whilst working with me
I fully appreciate that some of this information will be personal to you, so please take a look at the GDPR statement (you can find this in the main menu) for further information on how I'll be keeping this paperwork safe.
Do I need to talk about my childhood or traumatic events?
This may come as a surprise but no, you do not need to tell me everything about your life, childhood or events that are painful for counselling to be effective. We can instead focus on the here and now, and difficulties you are going through in the present day. I will never push you to talk about anything before you feel ready. I often will ask questions around your background as a way of illuminating a possible connection between past events and current day struggles, but you do not have to answer if you feel uncomfortable.
Will you tell anyone else what we talk about in counselling?
I do not discuss what we will talk about with anyone else, with the following exceptions:
My supervisor: every ethical counsellor will have a supervisor that they speak to about their work with clients. I do this to make sure I am working both safely and in your best interests, and my supervisor's role is to help me help you. I do not give my supervisor any identifiable details about you, such as your name, age or where you live; this is to ensure that my supervisor does not know who I am discussing with her.
If I become worried about your safety or the safety of others as a result of our conversation: If you say something that leads me to believe you or someone you know is at risk, I may need to talk to your GP, the Crisis Team or the Police. If ever this does happen, I will ensure to the best of my ability that I tell you what I am doing and why. If possible, I would ask for you to stay online whilst I make the necessary contact, so you know exactly what is happening. Please know that it is very rare for me to do this.
How many sessions will it take to work?
This question is very valid, and the answer to that depends on what you want to work on. For this reason, I do not limit the number of sessions you'd like to have.
With that in mind, you may notice you feel more comfortable talking to me after three or more sessions and find you're able to explore a little further than in our first. If we're still working together after six sessions, I'll invite you to review your progress with me to give you the opportunity to let me know if you feel you are making less progress than you'd expect, you're happy with the progress and would like to continue, or if you feel you are ready for the sessions to come to an end.
What is an Integrative Counsellor/Therapist?
I often get asked this question because that is my model of working. An Integrative counsellor draws from many different strands of therapy to best suit the person they're working with. For example, if someone has a phobia they would like help with, then I may choose a CBT based approach that has been proven to be effective with specific concerns. The most important thing to know is that I will always aim work in a way that you are comfortable with; if you're not happy with any part of our sessions, my aim is to give you space and opportunity to tell me so we can adapt. It is perfectly natural to find it takes a little time, for both me and you, to attune to your needs.
I find it difficult to put my feelings/experiences/worries into words.
Even though this is not a question, it's a very common experience. I want to let you know that it's okay; we'll try out different techniques and approaches to help you get there. You may be surprised to find that you're actually making a lot more sense than you may realise at the time and even the most seemingly random rambles usually end up being illuminating. The most important thing I can say in response to this experience is that I will sit with you until the words come.
I want to get better, but I'm worried about being re-traumatised by talking
Again, even though this isn't a question, I really wanted to address this and tell you that you are not alone in having this concern. I also want to tell you that our sessions will go at your own pace, where each session we can discuss parts of what has happened, no matter how small. Don't feel you have to tell me what's happened before you are ready; there's a lot of really useful work we can do together before that time comes.
If you become anxious during the session, we will most likely spend time using grounding techniques and reconnecting with our sense of safety before continuing.