What happens in the Counselling Sessions?
The first session
The first session is a bit different to the rest of the counselling sessions in the sense that I need to complete an assessment of your current circumstances and presenting problem. Asking you some questions will help me ascertain how I can be of assistance to you and whether I will be a good fit to help meet your needs. Likewise, it gives you, the client, an opportunity to get a feel for whether you are comfortable working with me and for you to ask me any questions you have about the counselling process.
I always start off very generally asking a little bit about what you do or how you spend your day and also about your hobbies and interests. Finding out a little bit about the people who are important to you is also helpful as it starts to build a picture of your life. I will ask both general and specific questions regarding the issue or concerns you have at the present moment and also how you came to seek out counselling.
Being curious about what you are thinking, feeling and how you are behaving around your concerns and the effect on self and others can help to provide a map for further sessions. Using questions gives you the opportunity to tell your concerns in a structured and safe way as sometimes re-telling our stories to another person can be traumatic and leave us feeling exposed or vulnerable. It also helps to break down a lot of information into a coherent shape.
There is always time at the end to debrief about the session and for you to ask any questions you may still have. Occasionally I might refer a client onto another organisation or practitioner if the issue or concern is outside my expertise or if I feel another professional may be a better fit. I will set some homework for you to complete as initially I need more information about what happens at home or at work to fill in the gaps of my assessment.
I will ask more assessment questions in the ongoing sessions although these will be less than the first session, enabling me to keep building a picture of you and your situation which may change as time goes on.
I will start the counselling work with you from session 2 onwards which will involve finding out how you have been since last session and also listening to your feedback around the homework task. Once I have re-engaged with you we will work together to find a focus for the session and I will use an intervention which will help you to experience your feelings, thoughts and reactions to a recent event or an ongoing issue that has worried you. Emotion focused therapists are trained to help people become aware, experience, express and stay with their feelings through noticing what is happening inside of them.
My role is to help find safe ways to aid the expression of feelings or their containment so that you can then make sense of what is happening to you and process what these feelings mean to you.
EFT therapist believe that accessing feelings, finding safe expression for the feelings and learning to stay with them more fully can help you to find new ways of relating to self and other as often we don’t allow our true feelings to surface or they get lost in our reactions to others. I use a range of interventions to help clients focus on their feelings including talking, visualisation, drawing and cushion work.
I also work systemically with couples and individuals and may ask you about a recent conversation you had with your partner or how you behave in relation to your partner, work colleagues or friends. Thinking about the roles and positions we take in relation to self and other can open up a wider discussion around the patterns of relating we have developed throughout our life.
Initially I do work with people in terms of their present day concerns and problems but with an eye to the fact that the past can be very much alive in the present and can often be impacting our present relationships and relationship with ourselves. Often there is a natural progression from counselling to psychotherapy as healing from past hurts and trauma becomes the focus of the work. This can be a lengthy process and it is advisable that if you require psychotherapy as opposed to counselling weekly sessions would be more supportive of the process. However my therapy work is always informed by what is happening in the present as healing of the past is a means to relate more authentically and make different choices in the here and now.
Because I work with the past as well as the present I get to meet people’s adult, parental and child parts through clients remembering their experiences but also as each of us carries these symbolic figures inside of us. Sometimes due to past trauma some of these parts have to be put away and hidden and part of my role is to help people become aware of what has been lost, what has remained and what is yet to be.
Coming to an end
By the end of your therapy you will have a range of strategies in place to minimise the risk of relapse or a variety of methods to manage your symptoms. Often people know instinctively when therapy should come to an end.
You will need to give the therapist at least one session's advanced notice of your intention to finish the counselling so closure for both parties can be achieved in a final meeting.
How long will it take?
You may have a rough idea of how many sessions you want before you start therapy or you may be unsure as to how many you will need. It depends upon many factors including the nature of the presenting problem, its severity, whether external support is available, financial and personal commitment to the therapy.
Ultimately it depends upon your needs and the pace you would like to work at.