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New to counselling or therapy? Some thoughts

So, you found a counsellor or therapist you feel comfortable working with (take a look at this blog if you haven’t started the search yet, or this blog if you are hesitating). If you are new to counselling or therapy, you might be wondering what to expect.

Everyone’s therapy journey is different. You co-create it with your counsellor or therapist; but here are some thoughts if you are feeling anxious or stuck.

Therapy goals

Usually, you will be asked what about your therapy goals.

There is no right or wrong. It’s ok to take your time.

You might not be used to talking about what troubles you. Maybe you are overwhelmed by what feels like a mountain of worries. If you are new to counselling or therapy, it can be hard to know where to start. Your counsellor or therapist can help you with this, reflecting back how they understand the key issues.

It’s also okay to take your time building trust with your therapist or counsellor and perhaps you need to take the first few sessions for that.

Sometimes things feel worse before they feel better

There are lots of reasons why you might start to feel worse in some way. Maybe you are talking about things in therapy you usually keep out of mind. It can be challenging talking about painful things.

It doesn’t necessarily mean the counselling or therapy “isn’t working” and I gently encourage you to be open with your counsellor or therapist about your experience.

What can I do between sessions?

A lot of the work happens outside the therapy room between sessions. Some clients like to spend time processing thoughts and feelings, for example by journaling or dedicating a walk in the week to reflecting on what has come up for them.

I personally keep a notebook with me in the day for jotting down thoughts, dreams or images that come up, even if I don’t fully understand them or am struggling to put it into words.

Other clients use their creativity to work through thoughts and feelings for example through painting or writing poems.

> Look out for another blog post soon with suggestions such as journaling tips.

With clients who are new to counselling or therapy, I often talk about mindfulness activities a in early sessions. Life experiences can mean that our nervous systems need some dedicated time for rest and restore. Here are some suggestions (and it is worth checking with your employer, health insurer or gym to see if there is free or discounted access to these):

Headspace (paid but currently you can try it for free)

Calm (paid but currently you can try it for free)

Balance (currently free for a year – but make sure you unsubscribe before the end of that period if you don’t want to continue)

Free Mindfulness Project (free)

How do you feel about the relationship with your counsellor or therapist?

The research shows that your relationship with the counsellor / therapist is more important than the type of therapy in terms of success of the therapy.

So it’s worth checking in with yourself:

  • Do you feel supported, heard, accepted and understood?
  • How do you feel talking to them?
  • Is the work challenging you out of your comfort zone?

Going with your gut is important. If something doesn’t feel right, I gently encourage you to be open with your counsellor or therapist.

But if you are struggling to feel safe in the relationship, it’s also okay to decide they are not right for you.

Mind has some useful tips and resources for people who are new to counselling or psychotherapy and wondering what to expect.

Image of Carina Badger with three blocks of text. The first block says find clarity and calm. The second block says cope better with change. The third block says say no when you want to. This is for Carina Badger, counsellor and therapist in Urmston, Manchester and online

I help people find clarity and calm, cope better with change and say no when they want to. Through therapy, I can help you get to know yourself better and support you in making meaningful changes in your life.

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Photo by Tiago Bandeira on Unsplash