The answer: I am not sure. You may feel uncertain, too. This is normal. In the beginning, the path of therapy is unknown to the client and to the counsellor. We need to explore what is wrong, how things got this way, and how you hope therapy can help. The only way to figure it out is through mutual dialogue, driven primarily by the client. In the first session of therapy, my job is to listen. I am not going to learn anything about a person if I assume the role of teacher (e.g., lecturing, giving advice immediately, assigning tasks). It all begins with listening. From there, we can answer the question: Can therapy help me?
There has always been debate about what kind of therapy is “best.” Not surprisingly, this debate is still raging. There is no debate, however, that a strong client/counsellor alliance is critical for success. If you are seeking support, it is important to find someone that makes you feel heard, understood, and respected.
In a culture of instant feedback, we may hope that counselling will be fast acting. I certainly understand feelings of impatience and urgency. Whatever your concern may be, it is impacting your life and you want it fixed now. However, I cannot promise anyone a quick-fix or guarantee any particular outcome. What I can promise is listening, working with you to understand the problem, and answering the question: Can therapy help me? If we believe it can, then we can discuss what therapy might look like. Some examples of this: How often will you come in? What kind of approach do you think will be helpful? These kinds of questions can best be answered after listening, followed by collaboration on the goals and purpose of therapy.
I offer all prospective clients a brief telephone consultation (usually about 15 minutes), so that they can explore the question: Can therapy help me? Although each conversation is different, some of the questions I typically ask are:
- What do you feel is wrong?
- In your opinion, what has contributed to the problem?
- What has led you to seek therapy now?
- Have you ever been to therapy before? If so, what helped and what didn’t?
- What do you hope to get from therapy?