How do I know when I'm ready to begin counselling therapy?
Updated: Jun 30
Welcome to my blog page of 2023. Throughout the year we'll focus on emotional issues that affect most of us from time to time - and see how counselling therapy can help.
Something's troubling you. You've noticed changes in your behaviour that have a negative impact on your emotional health. Friends and family worry about you. Perhaps it's been suggested that you seek counselling therapy. But what if counselling is not something you have considered before? How do you know that you're ready for it?
You could begin by asking yourself what's motivating you to seek counselling. If your difficulty feels urgent, you can contact the NHS or a support helpline or chat platform. If your difficulty is very recent and not overly challenging, perhaps you can pause to take stock. You may be able to resolve the issue by using self-help resources and seeking advice from your GP's surgery.
If you feel a compulsion to 'fix' things quickly, take note: counselling therapy is not a quick fix. You will need to invest your time and emotional energy. And, in the UK. unless you access counselling through the NHS or charities offering free counselling services, you will also need cash. There's usually a wait for free and low-cost services.
When considering counselling, it may help to ask yourself the following questions:
What changes have I noticed?
What strategies have I already tried?
Am I struggling to cope?
Who am I doing this for?
Do I believe there can be a positive outcome or am I sceptical?
Do I want advice or support?
Am I looking to make a change?
Do I have any specific goals?
Am I looking to understand myself and others?
Am I willing to do the work and be open to challenge?
What is my availability and can I commit to regular sessions?
Can I afford to pay for counselling?
Whilst you may consider counselling on the advice of others, be sure to check that you are not simply following advice. A therapist will work to forge a connection and build trust. When you're open to this, counselling can succeed. If you are reluctant, sceptical or suspicious of counselling, engaging with the process will be difficult. You could waste both time and funds.
Whilst you may consider counselling on the advice of others, be sure to check that you are not simply following their advice.
Counselling is not advisory or directive - a counsellor is not there to offer an opinion or tell you what to do. Whilst a counsellor may offer tools or tips for mental health, an important aspect of their work is to encourage and support you in understanding your thoughts and behaviours, so that you can find your own way to resolve difficult issues.
It is not always necessary to set goals in counselling. Most of us are looking to change the way we're feeling. If you're looking to tackle a specific issue, such as identity, relationship or loneliness, for example, then look for a counsellor who specialises in that area.
A counsellor will encourage and support you to understand your thoughts and behaviours. But you will need to work with your counsellor to find solutions to your difficulties.
Personal development is an essential part of counselling therapy. To increase self-awareness, understand others and effect change, you will need to be open to challenge. This can be difficult emotionally, but a counsellor will aim to support you through this.
Counselling takes time and regular sessions keep you in touch with your process. Make sure the counsellor's availability suits your schedule. Having to rush to sessions after work, delaying lunch or your evening meal because you have a session, or having to end your session early to meet another commitment, could affect your therapy. If you work irregular shifts, check that the counsellor can accommodate flexible sessions. Some counselling services offer set times only.
At the risk of stating the obvious, if you're paying for counselling sessions, consider your finances.
Bear in mind that it may take two to four sessions for you to feel comfortable with a therapist. Many employee assistance programmes (EAPs) offer five or six sessions. Some free or low-cost counselling services offer 10 to 20 weekly sessions, or sessions for a maximum period of time (6 months, a year or 2 years).
Some private practitioners may have a minimum and maximum number of sessions but most private practitioners offer open-ended therapy. With open-ended therapy, you'll be able to plan ending sessions with your counsellor when it feels right for you. And, with long-term counselling, it is usually possible to take a break. Discuss this with your counsellor. You may need time to prepare for a pause from therapy.
At the risk of stating the obvious, if you're paying for counselling sessions, consider your finances. If necessary, plan ahead and budget accordingly for sessions. Frequent stopping and starting of therapy can affect progress. Some service providers offer low-cost counselling or concessionary rates. This may not always be publicised, so if you need it, ask if such help is available.
All things considered, you're probably ready to begin your counselling journey.
Useful UK Contacts:
The following information was checked at time of posting. Visit websites for more information.
Find out how to access NHS mental health services and get urgent help.
If you or someone else is in danger, call 999 or go to A&E
If you need help urgently, but it's not an emergency, get help from NHS 111 online or call 111
Confidential emotional support in the UK and the Republic of Ireland for anyone experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts.
Call: 116 123 (24 hours a day)
Dedicated to the prevention of young suicide in the UK.
HopelineUK: 0800 068 4141 (9am - midnight every day, including weekends and bank holidays)
CAMPAIGN AGAINST LIVING MISERABLY (CALM)
For people in the UK who are feeling down for any reason, need to talk to someone or want to find information and support.
Helpline: 0800 58 58 58 (5pm to midnight, every day of the year)
Advice and support for people in England and Wales experiencing a mental health difficulty, plus support for their family and friends.
InfoLine: 0300 123 3393 to call, or text 86463 (Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, except bank holidays).
RETHINK MENTAL ILLNESS
Working to help everyone in England affected by severe mental illness.
Advice and Information Helpline: 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 4pm, except 6 -10 March 2023 when this phone line will be open 12.45pm - 4pm)
Email: email@example.com (Rethink Mental Illness aim to respond within 3 working days)
Offering a range of support to young people (aged 25 and under) challenged by anything from mental health to money, from homelessness to finding a job, from break-ups to drugs.
Helpline: 0808 808 4994 (Monday to Saturday 4 pm to 11 pm)
Crisis Messenger: text THEMIX to 85258 (24 hrs, 7 days a week)
Email via the website contact form, Monday to Saturday
Offering mental health support for children and young people in the UK.
Parents helpline: 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4pm, excluding bank holidays)
YoungMinds Crisis Messenger: text YM to 85258 (available 24/7)
Practical help, emotional support and information for individuals, their family, friends and carers, when experiencing mental health difficulties in the UK.
Support Forum: www.sane.org.uk
Call 07984 967 708 and leave a message, giving your first name and a contact number, and someone will call you back as soon as possible
Saneline: 0300 304 7000 (4 pm to 10 pm every day of the year)