People often think counselling is going to be difficult or scary, but the truth is making that first appointment itself is one of the hardest steps you'll take.
I think it's not knowing what will happen that makes things scary, so I'm going to take you with me into the therapy room and walk you through your first appointment to give you some idea of what to expect and maybe make the whole thing less daunting.
Who can come?
Relate is for everyone. We work with individuals, families, young people and couples; straight, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender. We also have counsellors who work in a range of languages, so call us on 0300 100 1234 and we'll let you know what's available.
You can come with your partner, or on your own. I often see people on their own who want to work out some of their relationship issues after a break up, or perhaps before they get into another relationship. Also if they are in a relationship and their partner doesn't want to come along. I'm a relationship therapist, so I work with anyone who wants to talk about relationship issues.
Relationship counselling tends to be short-term work often lasting a few months, but it varies depending on the issues. We would always encourage you to come as soon as possible, rather than leaving things till you are at crisis point, but remember we are here for you when you feel you need our help.
Who you will meet
When you call, we will try to offer you our first available appointment, so the counsellor you will meet at this session may not be the person you continue your ongoing work with. The counsellor will want to find out why you have come to Relate, but you will be working together to decide the best way forward for you.
A lot of people feel anxious or nervous at their first appointment, but don't worry, your counsellor will be very experienced and has heard it all before and they are there to make you feel comfortable and at ease.
Your first session is a consultation
When I meet new clients, I introduce myself and explain that today's session is a consultation rather than counselling. It's really so we can find out a bit more about each other and understand what you need. We might refer you to an on-going therapist for Relationship Counselling, or discuss if one of our other services like Sex Therapy or Family Counselling might be suitable.
Sometimes we might also suggest individual counselling, either with Relate or another agency as something that could be useful.
"But we want to get started now"
It's often the case that by the time you get here, things might be very intense in your relationship. You have finally made the decision to come to counselling and are anxious to get started, so the consultation may feel frustrating. However, from experience we really need to follow this process in order to help you figure out the best plan of action.
Confidentiality and safety
I begin by reading our confidentiality and safety statement, which outlines Relate's policy around domestic violence and child protection. If either of these issues come up, we will help to refer you on or work with you individually. It's a bit wordy, so just sit tight.
What has made you book this appointment?
Next I will ask you to tell me a bit more about what has been going on with you and your relationship, what changes you hope for in coming to counselling and a bit about your family background. This usually takes up most of the session as I get to understand more about your situation. I may be taking notes as you talk to me, which will be passed on to your on-going counsellor.
Is Relate right for you?
By now we should be closer to agreeing if Relate is right for you, if now is the best time for you to engage in Relationship Counselling, or what other options you have. I will explain to you how counselling works and the basic theory behind it. I will also ask if you have anything else you think is important for us to know and if you have any questions.
If we're not sure if counselling or Relate is right for you at this point in time, I may let you know that I will go away and think about it and contact you in a few days. Or perhaps if you are not sure, you would also like to go away and have a think about it too before contacting us again.
Booking your next appointment
At the end of the session I will ask you which are the best times and locations for your sessions. It helps if you can be flexible so we can offer you appointments for on-going counselling quicker.
We will also talk about the fee for sessions. Unfortunately Relate is not a free service and fees vary across the country. Where possible we work on a sliding scale according to your income so everyone can access counselling. However, if your fee becomes an added pressure over time, please talk to your counsellor to re-negotiate.
How we can help
I hope this post has de-mystified the process for you a little. It takes courage and strength to make your first appointment, but we are here to help.
Call 0300 100 1234 or contact your nearest Relate Centre to discuss your next steps.