When I meet with a client for the first time I might ask, “Why are you here?” “Why now?” “What do you want to get out of working with me?” Not because I’m trying to annoy you with endless questions but as a means of identifying how best you can use your time and energy, and let’s face it, your money, to get the best out of your counselling experience.
It’s a bit like starting on a journey. Unless you’re on a mystery tour and someone else is in charge of the destination you generally know where you want to go. You might make the journey in stages and buy a ticket for the first part, then when you arrive there, consider the next leg and so on. If you have gone to the trouble of sourcing a counsellor, you have already given some thought as to where you would like to be at the end of the journey even if it’s only “not in this place”. So a conversation about what’s wrong with “this place” can be the beginning.
Initially some clients may come with a list of things wrong in their lives and wanting to be “fixed”. Counselling isn’t about fixing you or even offering you advice as to how you can fix yourself. It’s about understanding yourself better through talking and being heard in a confidential relationship that accepts you where you are in the here and now without imposing conditions of where you should be.
Some clients will want to explore how they got to this point in their lives so we might look at patterns that have developed in the past that are impacting on your life in the present and threatening to impair your future. Or it might be that the past was okay, it is the present circumstances that are causing your pain, perhaps through bereavement or other losses that need the space to grieve and to re-locate the person or event in your life.
Even at this early stage, working with the therapist to identify and clarify problems that you might want to work on, can actually result in significant change occurring. The fact that you have shared your thoughts with someone who is actively listening to you and attuned to how things are for you begins the process of listening to yourself with compassion and that’s something we all need more of.