What happens in therapy?
Therapy looks different for everyone. For many, however, it is the presence of an objective and compassionate listener that helps. Your experience in counselling may involve looking back - or looking forward, towards the future. What ever our journey looks like, I can assure it’s not as scary as it seems. We’ll identify your goals and work towards them as a team. You might cry. We might laugh. You’ll most likely grow.
What happens in the first session?
In our first session together we’ll go over an informed consent form. This form (roughly two pages) will help you to understand what therapy might do for you, how it might be difficult at times (there are risks), and what confidentiality means. It also covers payment, my qualifications, and my style of counselling. From here, we’ll take a look at your goals for therapy. It can be helpful to reflect on this prior to the first session. We’ll also create a “genogram” as well - and you can think of this as a snapshot of your family (it helps me too, as I get to know you better by doing this). The rest is different for every individual (and up to you). I might teach you specific coping strategies - or, if you would just like to “vent” every session, that’s perfectly fine, too.
Are there any tips for making therapy work?
Risk taking is vital. It’s important to take risks in therapy - but it’s also important to go slow, too (for some). We’ll find a pace that works for you, and as always, you are in control.
I have found it helpful to think of the human psyche as a house. There might be many rooms in that house that represent our many different parts. Therapy is like dusting off the old flashlight and taking a look around in those rooms. Perhaps you haven’t been in the basement for a long time, and yet something is calling you there. We’ll walk down those stairs together, both holding flashlights - and see what’s no longer needed.
Candace van Dell, one of my favorite inner child therapists, says that we have to be “real about how we feel so that we can heal.” I believe this to be true, too. Honesty is important in the healing process. I am hopeful that I can provide a space where you can be your real self - and move towards healing.
Do I really need to see a therapist?
The stigma surrounding counselling is still very real. Luckily, this is changing. More and more, people are turning to professionals for guidance with their psychological health. I am hopeful that, in the not-too-distant future, “going to the counsellor” will be as commonplace as “going to doctor.” Tune-ups and check-ups will be standard practice for many people.
One way to answer the “is therapy needed?” question is to ask a different, though related one: am I feeling stuck? If it feels like you’re being held back from living a full life, perhaps counselling might help.
How many sessions will it take to feel better?
This is a difficult question to answer, as it seems to be different for each person. For some, relief from unwanted feelings can occur after just a few sessions. For others, a longer commitment is better. Many individuals come each week, others bi-weekly, and yet others every-so-often, as needed. These questions can be tackled in-session, with me.
Important: Some people might feel a little worse after starting therapy. This doesn’t mean that you’re not making progress. Often, talking about one uncomfortable feeling can bring up others, too. You might also feel drained after some sessions. It’s all normal.
Do you work with children?
I love working with adults and teens (14 and up). However, I believe there are other counsellors more suited to helping children. With teenagers, a parent/guardian should be present for the first ten minutes of the first session only. If the teen’s parents/guardians are separated, both must be present for this first session (unless one of the guardians has the legal authority to make health-care related decisions for the child without the involvement of the other guardian).
From here, I like to work privately with the teen. This because having an objective, caring listener is most important. Unless there is immediate danger to the teen or someone they know, I will not be speaking with the parent about counselling. I may comment briefly on progress, but not more. Unless the teen has explicitly consented to a discussion between myself and the guardian about the details of therapy, no such conversations will take place.
How confidential is therapy, really?
Confidentiality is a core principle in counselling. Simply put, trust is essential. Registered Clinical Counsellors are bound by an ethical code that prioritizes confidentiality. There are some situations, however, where a counsellor might have an ethical and/or legal duty to disclose confidential information to the appropriate authorities. These would be:
when the counsellor strongly believes that you may be a danger to yourself or to others;
where there is a suspicion of child abuse or abuse of a vulnerable person in your care;
where a court orders the counsellor to turn over records or to appear in court.
It’s important to remember that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed through any electronic communication, too. This includes (but is not limited to) email, text message, video calls (e.g., Skype, FaceTime) and telephone calls.