I’ve never been to counselling before: How do I know what to talk about?

People come to counselling for many reasons, and with a whole host of different goals. For some, the problem or dilemma is readily identifiable and they know pretty much exactly what they want to speak about. For others its not so clear. They know that they’re not happy, they feel that there are things in life that they should easily be able to manage, but still they’re struggling. For still others there is a ever present nagging sense of anxiety that never goes away, no matter how calm, happy or safe a situation they may be in at any given moment.

Because of all of these differences, it is difficult in an answer such as this to be too precise about what you should talk about, or how you might wish to approach the subject once you are sitting in a room with me as your counsellor/therapist. What I would say however is that before you are expected to talk about anything, the first thing that we will concentrate on is you feeling safe and comfortable. I find that once we’ve ensured that sense of safety, then the conversation tends to flow fairly easily. Even if you are struggling to put things into words, that is ok. A large part of my skills as a therapist come from my ability to listen with a sort of “third ear”. One that allows me to listen to the entire being of those I’m working with, and not just the words they are saying. Most people find that once they feel comfortable and safe, that the things that have been troubling them come much more easily than they ever imagined. I know its a lot to ask at this point, long before you’ve picked up the phone to give me a call and set up an initial session, but I would ask that you trust me, and the process. It is not at all uncommon for those who have never been to any sort of counselling to be worried that they will dry up and not know what to say. My experience however is that this is short lived and a natural conversation soon develops.

Of course, if at any point during any session you do not wish to talk about something, you don’t have to. In all sessions, the topic of discussion (and the depth of discussion of that topic) is driven entirely by you and whatever happens to be the main pressing thoughts for you on any given day. Apart from certain pre-agreed situations during couples work, sessions are never led by me through questioning and/or suggestion. From the discussions we have during your sessions, in what often seems a surprisingly short time, a relationship develops between us that allows you to discover who you are as well as how and why you react to life the way you do. It usually does not take long before my clients find themselves managing things that only a few weeks ago seemed impossible, and feel better prepared for life in general going forward.