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Things your Therapist wants you to know

Updated: Mar 26

Working in the world of therapy, it's easy to lose sight of what it can look like to a newcomer.

Most people have an idea of what counselling looks like from TV or films and, while social media is doing much to reduce the stigma around mental health, there is still a shared opinion out there that receiving therapy is weird.

The truth is it can be.

Talking to someone about personal stuff that you have never shared with other people in a private room away from day to day distractions is definitely not the norm and can feel uncomfortable if you're not used to it.

Historically, the role of a counsellor has always been there. In the past it was often the role of a priest, pastor or doctor to listen to private and personal problems and offer insight, help and advice.

Yet for some reason it is still seen as taboo to consider therapy.

If you're feeling unsure about what it would be like to try therapy, here is a list of things that I, a therapist, want you, a potential client, to know about counselling. I believe this list will not only help you to iron out some of your doubts about booking a counselling session but it will also improve your experience while you are going through the process.

About the Qualification:

To be a registered and qualified counsellor recognised by an awarding body such as BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) counsellors need to have completed a course which will likely have taken up to three years to complete.

During the course, trainee counsellors have to practise their counselling skills with each other over and over again until their tutors believe that they are ready to start offering counselling "in real life".

Trainee counsellors are then sent to placements where they will deliver 100 hours of counselling for free before they can become qualified counsellors.

Why do I want clients to know this?

Therapists have to do a lot of hard work and undergo a lot of training before they are given the green light to be able to work as qualified practitioners. They have to be very dedicated and committed to their work. They have worked in the world of counselling long before they could call themselves a counsellor. They know what counselling "looks like".

And Yet

They know that you as a client are not going to be as familiar to therapy as they are. They don't expect you to be completely comfortable in the first session and they know that starting something new can make even the calmest of people feel nervous.

If you feel put off by therapy because your therapist may have expectations of you, please feel reassured that if they have done their training, they will want you to feel safe and comfortable and will not expect you to be the "perfect client".

About Me, the therapist:

I have a family and we don't always get on. I have a partner and he sometimes gets on my nerves.

Sometimes I can be anxious, scared, angry, upset.

I have had to have counselling myself.

In a nutshell - I AM HUMAN TOO

Why to I want new clients to know this?

When new clients come to therapy they will experience a new and not natural setting where the client is given space and time to talk openly about themselves. It is not natural because the therapist will likely not share anything about their own experiences or talk about how they feel.

All therapists have their own lives, experiences, thoughts and feelings. Most of the time their personal journey will have been the driving force for them becoming a counsellor.

If you are worried about coming to a therapy session, just remember that your therapist is actually just another human being and they are there to focus on you so that you can get what you need from the session.

About The Sessions:

Counselling sessions are usually scheduled at the same time each week.

Counselling sessions are usually 50 minutes to an hour long.

Counselling sessions don't always come to a natural end where we feel instantly better.

Why do I want clients to know this?

Sessions are scheduled at the same time each week to give you, the client, time to reflect on what was discussed along with the emotions you experienced and possibly the thoughts that were challenged.

Sessions are usually 50 minutes to an hour long because there has to be a set time for how long the session will go on for. Anything shorter would normally feel like there hadn't been significant attention paid to the issues being brought up. Anything longer would feel like we are starting to veer off topic and become less focussed on what we are wanting to achieve.

When the hour/50 minutes is up, the counsellor will likely end the session and book in for the next week. It can appear as though the therapist is no longer interested in your content but this is very UNLIKELY. The therapist is more likely trying to demonstrate boundaries so that it is clear that the time slot is over and that the contract that was initially agreed to is being followed. They are trying to make sure that you are both sticking to the plan so that you get the most out of the process.

If you are in therapy and feel as though your session ended too quickly and you hadn't had time to "feel better" it might be of benefit for you to look at this and reflect on the emotions that you felt that were uncomfortable. Is this worth exploring at your next appointment?

About Payment:

Counsellors don't just charge for counselling because it pays their wage. It is also because they believe that the counselling process has value.

Why do I want clients to know this?

I have worked as a counsellor for charities and I have worked as a counsellor in private practice and one thing that seems unmistakably different in both is that clients who pay for their sessions have a far better attendance record.

This is because when you pay for something, you automatically agree that it is worth paying for. In contrast, when something is free it is far more likely to be taken for granted.

Counselling is a commitment in the same way that paying a gym membership is a commitment. Do you think a free gym would mean higher attendance? Maybe for some who are really dedicated but if that's not you and you have been deterred in the past by the price tag of therapy, it might be a good idea to think about the value of the potential results.

About the Process:

When I am asked in my private life what I do for a living, I answer with caution.

" I am a counsellor" is normally met with a response "oh, well I'm not telling you anything about me!".

There seems to be an idea out there that counsellors/therapists/psychologists are trying to read people all of the time. As though we have sixth sense to make conclusions about what is going on in everyone's personal life.

Please can I say this loudly and clearly:


Why do I want clients to know this?

Clients need to know before they engage with therapy that their therapist does not have a hidden agenda. They are not trying to work you out or trip you up or get one step ahead.

Counselling is me, a therapist, working with you, a client, at your pace.

I am listening to you and being with you in that moment. I may have some techniques to help you with your situation but once again I am here as a human trying to meet with you as an equal.

If you're debating whether you should start therapy or are looking for the right therapist, the most important thing to know is that you are looked at only as someone who, like everyone else has needs.

I hope this article has helped you to understand more about what therapy looks like and that you as a client will be facing, a kind and welcoming world which is free from judgement.

If you have enjoyed reading about these things a therapist wants you to know why not keep an eye on my page for other blog posts that might be of interest. I post the links on my Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages.

If you think you'd like to explore this in counselling why not get in touch today.

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