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  • Karen O'Leary

10 Things to know before you go to counselling/therapy.

1. Whats the difference?

Counselling and psychotherapy are terms that are used interchangeably and overlap in a number of ways. Both are talk therapies delivered by professionals. Counselling is more of a short term process and deals with more immediate issues such as bereavement, stress, work burn out, relationship issues etc. Psychotherapy looks deeper at more long term issues that may have their origins in the past and are affecting the present.


2. It's not the counsellor/therapist's job to give advice.

A counsellor or psychotherapist an often be seen by the client as the expert who gives advice, but this isn't so. Its not the counsellor/therapist's job to tell you to quit your job, or leave your partner. Counselling/therapy is about getting to know yourself better, understanding your thinking and behaviour better. Your counsellor can teach you coping skills and strategies and they may sound like advice, however when it comes to personal decisions, your counsellor/therapist is the facilitator, so you can come to those decisions in an empowered way.


3. Therapy is a collaboration.

Counselling and therapy is a collaboration between you and your counsellor/therapist.

Taking an active part in the sessions will ensure you get the most benefit from the sessions.


4. Its all about change.

To get the best out of therapy, be open, willing and more interested in change inside and outside of the counselling room. Your counsellor/therapist will help you implement the changes outside the counselling room.


5. Meeting outside the counselling room.

Counsellors/therapists will not acknowledge you if they meet you outside the counselling room, unless you acknowledge them first. So there is no need to panic when you see your counsellor/therapist out, as they won't approach you unless you make contact first.


6. Counsellors/therapists have been to therapy too.

Counsellors and psychotherapists go to counselling/ therapy too. In fact its part of their training, and will continue on and off when they feel like a check in. So rest assured your counsellor/therapist knows what its like in the other chair, and how nerve wrecking it can be.


7. No issue too small.

There are many different reasons to come to counselling/therapy, sometimes it can be simple as making a big decision and wanting to explore the options with a professional rather than mulling it over with your friends.


8. The Agenda is yours

You set the agenda as to what you want to talk about. The first session, will be an initial assessment of your situation and will ask you different questions about your background, family etc. Further sessions will be up to you what to discuss and what you want to focus on. Your therapist may bring up something from the previous session that he/she think you might need to explore more, but more or less its up to you what you talk about and explore in the sessions.


9. Commitment

Counselling/therapy doesn't have to be a long term commitment. People can see the benefit from a few sessions and others it takes a bit more. Counsellors/therapist usually review after 6-8 sessions, and its a good opportunity to discuss where you are, and if you want to go further.


10. The right "fit"

Finding the right fit is imperative for the counselling/therapy to be effective.

How do you know if its the right fit? Feeling heard, understood and respected is a start. The counselling/therapy process isn't always going to be easy and enjoyable, but you should always feel safe, accepted, heard and when needed challenged.


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