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"Should I go for counselling?"

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

Things have not been working out for you and you're hoping to find a way out. And you might be wondering whether going for counselling, also known as psychotherapy or "talk therapy", would be helpful. In this post, you can learn more about how counselling works, how it can help you, what to expect in a typical first session, and tips to make the most out of your counselling sessions.

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What is counselling?

  • Counselling is a process where counsellors help their clients to work through their personal and psychological problems.

  • It is confidential and most counsellors have formal training and experience to do so. They also abide by a code of ethics.

  • However, counsellors are not qualified to diagnose mental illness or prescribe medication.

  • Some therapies/techniques that your counsellor might use are: changing the way you think about things, teaching you how to relax and focus on the present moment, identifying your strengths, and developing better ways and skills to move forward, etc.

  • Counselling has been shown to be effective in improving emotions and behaviour, with long-term health benefits (APA, 2016).


Do I "need" counselling?

It can take a lot of courage to ask for help and open up to a stranger. However, asking for help is a sign of strength (not weakness) as it can lead to clarity and new opportunities for growth and self-development.

You might want to consider going for counselling if you answer "Yes" to any of the following:

Do I need counselling? | Tea For Thoughts Counselling Singapore
  • Are you tired of feeling stressed and anxious? Is your mood getting from bad to worse?

  • Is your daily life, career/school or relationships affected by your problems?

  • Do you need support and wish to talk to someone without feeling judged?

  • Do you wish to explore your options and do something to change your situation?

  • Do you want to learn more about yourself and live a more satisfying life?


How long does counselling take to work?

  • Counselling/Therapy requires time, effort and resources, as it is not an instant or miracle cure.

  • Research suggests that it takes 6 to 9 counselling sessions for clients to experience beneficial and lasting outcomes (Rickwood et al., 2015). Depending on your needs or unforeseen external circumstances, it might take longer.

  • Weekly sessions are the norm but as your situation or symptoms improve, you might see your counsellor fortnightly or monthly for follow-ups.

  • Counselling typically ends when you have reached your goals or have learnt to manage your challenges in positive and healthy ways.


What can I expect during my first session?

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During your initial contact with your counsellor or counselling agency to book an appointment, you would probably have to share a few details of yourself, e.g. your name, contact number, email, age, occupation, areas of concern (such as work-related stress, relationship, anxiety, or self-development, etc.)


At the start of a typical first session, you would be filling up paperwork and your counsellor would be going through them with you. An important form is called "Informed Consent" where among other things, it states the exceptions to client confidentiality, for safety and legal reasons, such as harm to self and/or others, and abuse to minors.


Then it is time for you to talk about what brought you to counselling.


Your counsellor would also be asking you questions to get to know you better and come up with a treatment plan. Some examples are:

  • What do you hope to achieve by coming to counselling?

  • In what ways did you try to solve your problems? Did they work?

  • How is your health and sleep?

  • What is your current living arrangement like?

  • What do you enjoy doing?

As a counselling session is generally about 60 minutes long, the above can be a lot to cover for a single session!

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At the end of your first session, you might be asked for feedback. As the counsellor-client relationship (also known as *"therapeutic alliance") is an important factor of effective therapy, here are some useful points to consider whether your counsellor would be able to help you reach your counselling goals:

  • Did my counsellor seem warm, caring and supportive?

  • Did my counsellor understand how I felt?

  • Did my counsellor make me feel heard and respected?

  • Did my counsellor challenge me or help me see things from a new perspective? (Greenstein L., 2018.)

  • Did I find the session helpful and learn something new?

If your answer to any of the above is "Not at all", you might want to consider changing counsellors.

It is okay to let them know that you won't be returning. Most counsellors are professional and may refer you to another counsellor who could be a better fit.


*However, do bear in mind that just like other forms of relationships, it takes time to build up trust and rapport.


How do I make the most out of my counselling sessions?

  • Before your first session, read about your counsellor's approach and training. This gives you an idea of their education, certifications and expertise to solve your issues, and what you can expect in your treatment plan.

  • Plan to arrive 10 to 15 minutes earlier so that you have enough time to complete Covid-19 safety checks and settle down.

  • As counselling sessions are 60 to 90 minutes long, make sure that you have enough rest and have taken a light meal or snack before the session starts.

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  • If you are doing online counselling, find a location where it is ideally quiet with good lighting, has stable internet connection, you'll feel safe to talk, and won't be distracted during the session.

  • If it is the first time you are using Zoom or other online meeting software, make sure you know how to use it before your counselling session starts.

  • Don't expect your counsellor to read your mind or know exactly how you feel (though I wish we could!).

  • Come prepared to ask questions. Asking questions helps your counsellor to understand the kind of solutions you require. So the more you ask, the more you'll benefit.

  • Keep an open mind and be honest about your thoughts and emotions. Sometimes talking about your feelings, past experiences or relationships can be uncomfortable or overwhelming. Discussing these uncomfortable feelings or thoughts with your counsellor can help you to move forward.

  • Make a note of your insights and difficulties between sessions. Discuss them with your counsellor in the next session. Consider keeping a stress journal.

  • Practise what you have learnt and try your best to do your counselling homework.

  • If you are thinking of ending therapy, discuss with your counsellor in advance so that they can address your concerns, review your progress, make adjustments to your treatment, or refer you to another professional, etc.

If you are still not sure whether counselling is suitable for you, many counsellors today offer a free phone consultation or first session for you to find out more.


Good luck!


References

  1. American Psychological Association. (2016). Understanding psychotherapy and how it works. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/understanding-psychotherapy.aspx

  2. Rickwood, D. J., Mazzer, K. R., Telford, N. R., Parker, A. G., Tanti, C. J., & McGorry, P. D. (2015). Changes in psychological distress and psychosocial functioning in young people visiting headspace centres for mental health problems. Medical Journal of Australia, 202(10), 537–542. https://doi.org/10.5694/mja14.01696

  3. Greenstein L. (2018). How Do I Know If My Therapist Is Effective? National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/February-2018/How-Do-I-Know-if-My-Therapist-is-Effective


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's own and does not represent any organisation. This post does not constitute professional or medical advice. If you are facing a mental health crisis, please seek professional mental help or medical attention near you.

 
Janet Gay Counsellor Singapore | Tea For Thoughts Counselling

About the Author


Hi, I'm Janet Gay and I offer individual therapy to students, adults and mothers. As a certified counsellor, teacher and mother of three, I can relate to the desires, pressures and issues of many people living in multi-cultural Singapore. I have worked with clients looking for help in self-development, stress, self-esteem, anxiety, depression and relationship issues.


If you wish to talk to someone without feeling judged, gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your issues, overcome your challenges and live a more enjoyable and meaningful life, get in touch with me today.


 

#selfdevelopment #stress #anxiety #depression #parenting #relationships #counselling




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