top of page
  • Writer's pictureprospectcounselling

Feel the fear of Counselling...and do it anyway!

The idea of going to see a counsellor for the very first time can stir up all sorts of thoughts and feelings...Here are some of the most common concerns that people initially have, followed by some infomation and guidance to reassure you and help you on your way.

  • Starting counselling is scary. I'm really nervous…

It is completely normal to feel nervous in the run up to, and during your first appointment. However, the majority of my clients say that their nerves start to subside once they have got comfortable in my counselling room, and we have been talking for a little while. They realise that I am a (relatively!) normal human being and will hopefully agree that I am easy to talk to, and I come across as genuine and accepting, which puts them at ease.

It might be worth bearing in mind that counsellors get nervous too! I experience nerves when meeting new people, as I never quite know what to expect or what is going to happen.

Counselling is not always an enjoyable experience. You might find that you feel worse before you start to feel better. As your counsellor, I will be there to listen and support you, and if you are willing to push through any discomfort, be open and honest and work hard, you’ll have a really good chance of making progress and feeling better in the long term.

  • I might not like the counsellor or they might not like me

The reality is you and the counsellor you choose might not click with each other. If you feel they aren’t quite the right person to support you on your journey, then it is best to acknowledge this as early on as possible, so that you avoid wasting any more time and money. If your counsellor feels they aren’t the best person to support you, they should address this sensitively and refer you onto someone else who may be a better fit.

Your counsellor may challenge you or say things which you don’t want to hear…you may find this difficult and even annoying, but there is a big difference between not liking what the counsellor says and not liking them.

It can help to see your first counselling session as an interview, where you are getting to know the counsellor and assessing whether they are the person for the job. You can ask your counsellor anything…they should be willing to explain the boundaries of how they work.

I accept that not everyone will like me or feel I am the best person to support them. If you don’t take to me, end the sessions as soon as possible, and try to find someone else that you feel you can work with comfortably.

  • The way the counsellor works might not be the right approach for me

Trying to find a counsellor can feel like a bit of a minefield. Many counsellors advertise themselves through online directories and when you begin searching for one, you might come across a wealth of unfamiliar terms such as ‘Mbacp’, ‘BSc’ and ‘Dip’ in the counsellors’ titles, which refer to the level of qualification*. Your counsellor should have a minimum of diploma level training, be insured to practice, and work according to an ethical framework - this could be demonstrated by stating which counselling association they are a member of e.g., BACP.

In addition to this, counsellors might describe themselves as person centred, CBT therapists or psychodynamic therapists etc. Research suggests that what is most important is that you can develop a good rapport and feel comfortable with the person you go to see for counselling, not how many letters they have after their name or how many different techniques and approaches they are trained in.

I have my own unique way of working - the approach I use depends on what my clients are struggling with and what they find helpful. I may not self-disclose much, give you my opinion or advise you on what to do – after all the sessions are about you not me, but I will be honest about this and support you to find your own answers and a way forward.

  • The counsellor might judge me

Clients often worry that the counsellor will think something they say is silly or that the counsellor will judge them for things they have said and done. Personally, I can’t recall ever thinking that something a client has said was silly…anything that is shared is a valid thought or feeling and the likelihood is that you are not alone in feeling like this as other people have very likely felt or behaved a similar way.

I would be a hypocrite to judge other people for their actions, and this would be particularly unhelpful and damaging in a counselling setting. I myself have made many mistakes over the course of my life so I understand what it is like to look back and feel shame and guilt for past behaviour. I endeavour to offer my clients a space where they feel safe to really open up and talk about everything they need, feel listened to, understood and accepted.

  • Going to counselling means I am weak

This is absolutely NOT the case. We all go through tough times and need support from others to help us get through. Admitting to yourself and others that you are struggling and asking to help is a difficult and brave thing to do, and going to counselling shows you are taking responsibility for tackling your issues.

I still go to therapy if I feel I am struggling with something, or I have a lot going on in my life at any particular time. I value the time and space it gives me to talk things through with another professional who will listen and support me without telling me what to do.

  • I might run out of things to say

It is a common worry that it will be really difficult to talk about yourself and what is going on in your life for a full hour…While some clients do struggle with opening up and talking about their difficulties, many find it surprisingly easy to fill the time, and if not, a well trained and experienced counsellor will be able to support you during the full session to get the most out of it and avoid those awkward silences.

Some clients find it helpful when I ask more questions during sessions to keep things running smoothly. With others, if they aren't sure what to focus on next I might suggest we go through one of the worksheets I have. Either way, I have never had a session where the client and I have ended up sat in silence having run out of things to talk about!

  • I'm not sure that my problems are serious enough to take to counselling

Lots of clients say things such as ‘I know there are people worse off than me,’ ‘my problems aren’t really that bad’ or ‘I should just man up and get on with things,’ but I believe there isn’t a problem too small to take to counselling. Here are some issues you might be experiencing which are worth seeking support from a counsellor with:

  • Feeling nervous, anxious or unsettled in certain situations

  • Difficulty in managing moods and regulating emotions

  • Changes or disruptions in sleep patterns and/or appetite

  • Difficulty in establishing or maintaining relationships, whether romantic or otherwise

  • Decline in work or school performance/productivity

  • Use of drugs, alcohol, or other harmful coping strategies

  • Physical health issues/chronic pain or illness

  • Traumatic experiences which you still feel the impact of in some way

  • Low motivation and mood - no longer enjoying the things you once did

  • Bereavement and grief

  • Desire to change aspects of your life but not knowing where to begin

  • What if I can’t be helped?

Counselling isn't a quick fix - It will take a lot of hard work and possibly many months to reflect on a lifetime of experiences and make sense of them. It is importtant that your expectations are realistic and this is something I would encourage you to talk to me about if you have any questions or concerns. In addition, you probably won’t have huge breakthroughs or epiphanies every session…counselling is about slowly working towards gaining a deeper understanding of yourself and what has shaped you and learning how to navigate life with greater ease.

In some cases, a client presents with very complex issues which the counsellor cannot fully support them with. A qualified counsellor who works according to a code of ethics should be aware of their own limitations, and be able to address this with clients when required.

If you came to see me with a particular set of issues, and I felt it was outside of my skill set, experience or level of competency, I would explain this to you and refer you to someone who specialises in the issues that you are affected by.

To summarise…

  • It’s normal to feel nervous

  • If you don’t click with the counsellor, find another one

  • As long as the counsellor is qualified and works ethically, the rapport you have with them is more important than how many letters they have after their name

  • Counsellors will endeavour to listen, be supportive and not judge you

  • Seeking support takes courage and is not a sign of weakness

  • Counsellors will help to fill any potential silences during sessions

  • There is no problem too small to take to counselling

  • Everyone who is willing to work hard can make progress…you just need to find the right person to support you on your therapy journey

Good luck!

*The most common abbreviations are: Dip – Diploma; BSc/BA – Bachelor’s degree; MSc/MA– Master’s degree

83 views0 comments


bottom of page