After over a year of waiting and wishing for counselling, the day of my first session has arrived. In fact, I’m just back from it. I thought I would write about my experiences of my first session, and then seven weeks down the line, talk about my last session. I thought it would be informative and useful not just for others, but for myself. Having a place to record my expectations, and then see if they were met would be useful. This also allows for other people, who may be looking into counselling or their first session date is approaching, what to expect. Or rather, my experiences on counselling, as of course experiences vary from person to person.
I will have to admit, I did not have high hopes about what to expect. I had frequently had people talk to me about counselling, and how useless it was. As well as seen others discuss how patronising and sometimes even harmful it was for them. However, at the same time I do know people who said they really got something out of it. In short, my expectations were really rather mixed but I didn’t want to see it as some sort of magical cure.
The first ten minutes or so of the session was more going over the issues of confidentiality – it would mostly be kept between me and my counsellor (except in emergencies) but I would also be mentioned to her supervisor. My counsellor said that she would only speak in general terms such as how suitable counselling was for me. It was to be expected, but it was nice that she was open and honest but I suppose she had to be.
After that I had to answer a survey – ten questions, all multiple choice. They just asked about how I was feeling the past week, such as if I was anxious, upset, sleeping poorly, or making plans for suicide. I would have liked for my counsellor to ask me about each of my answers, I did feel as though she brushed it to the side as they weren’t discussed. Although, that wasn’t really a big issue.
Both someone I speak to over on Twitter and my counsellor said that in order to get the most from the sessions I’d have to have an open mind. That I would have to have some hope in counselling’s ability to help me, in order for it to help me. Which is a bit frustrating, as it’s hard to put faith in something you don’t have any experience on. Especially when I don’t want to build my hopes up, only for it then to not work. I’m doing my best though.
We then went on to discuss some of the issues that I wished to focus on and where I thought these issues came from. We also discussed where I want to progress to and how I want to get there. This section was a lot more scattered, but this was perhaps just so she could get a general idea of some of the issues that I was struggling with. We didn’t really focus on a subject for too long; instead we briefly touched on lots of little issues.
I was expecting to go in and mention an issue, and then that’d be all we talked about for that session. Perhaps it was an unrealistic expectation to have – at least for a first session. However, I wasn’t overly disappointed that this was not the case. I still have seven other sessions remaining where we can talk more thoroughly about things that have been bothering me. I never felt forced to discuss something or to go into more detail, but she definitely encouraged me to open up more or at least explain what I meant.
Overall, I felt like the experience was a pleasant one. Although it is too early to tell how much it’ll help me. I’m not sure how long into the block of eight sessions that I’ll see an improvement (if anything), although hopefully it does happen. I did almost expect there to be some sort of ‘take home’ exercise, such as she’d want me to do certain things, or think about things in the session but that didn’t happen. I feel slightly more hopeful about counselling, as being able to open up about more deeper issues was something that I could never really do before, it was a relief to get some of it out there.
To anyone considering counselling, I would definitely say it’s something you need to experience for yourself in order to see if it works. No article or online quiz is ever going to predict that for you. Someone can have a lot of the same issues, but that doesn’t mean their way of dealing with them (or the ways to tackle them) will be the same. Mental illness is something that’s deeply personal, and so no two experience will ever be truly the same. I would recommend it, because I do believe that it’s important to seek help for mental health issues. However, I can’t praise it as some miracle cure – I don’t even know if it works for myself yet.