If you have never been in counseling before, it can seem a little foreign. We have found that if you understand some of the counseling expectations then it can help to make you feel more comfortable. Hopefully these will help you get some feel for what this is like. If you have further questions, please feel free to ask.
Counseling Expectations for the First Session
Before the initial session, important background information will be gathered. You will be asked to explain what has brought you to seek counseling. Answer the questions as honestly as you can as these will help the counselor understand what is going on and provide recommendations about how to proceed. We know that some of the questions will be hard to answer. Please do your best to answer them as fully as possible because they are important to provide an initial picture for the counselor. You can expect to be asked about your medical history, your present and historic life situation, your significant relationships, your work, your faith journey, how you spend your free time, your family and your educational background. The questionnaire also lets you think through why you are coming and how this has affected different areas of your life. You can expect that the counselor will not judge you for your answers or your questions.
If you do not get a chance to complete the questionnaire before the first session, the counselor will allow you to use part of the first session to complete it. While this is possible, if you do complete it in advance then you will get more time to talk with the counselor in that first session. During the first session, after going over information about confidentiality, privacy and how counseling works, your counselor will review your intake form. You will also have an opportunity to talk to a counselor about what is bringing you into counseling. You will also have an opportunity to ask questions.
Depending on a number of factors (such as schedules and any preferences you have) you may not have your first session right away. If there is a gap before your first session, we are still concerned about you. If something happens during that time (such as your situation becoming worse, especially if you have thoughts about hurting yourself or another person) please get immediate assistance. You can call us to try to set up an urgent appointment earlier than you were originally scheduled. If this is not possible, or you do not reach us, please go to the emergency room for an evaluation.
Do I Have to Lie Down?
While occasionally, a client will want to lie down, almost all clients chose to sit during their sessions. You will find that we have a couch that you can sit on. If you are coming in as a family, we also have additional chairs that allow more people to be in the session. The biggest exception to this involves children. Often with children, the counselor will engage them in play activities and this will involve working on the floor. Occasionally, this may also happen with older clients as well.
Everything revealed during the evaluation and later sessions is protected by confidentiality. There are situations which legally require reports to be made (especially in the area of abuse or intended violent crimes). Outside of these situations, everything said will not be disclosed, unless you authorize the release of the information. You may want to provide permission for your counselor to provide full or limited information to support people that are in your life. Similarly, if yo are required to get help, then you will want to talk with your counselor about what can be disclosed to the people who have required you to get help. To respect the confidentiality of the process and your privacy, if you should your counselor outside of the office, the counselor will not acknowledge you. This is not because they don’t recognize you or that they are being rude or disrespectful, but rather is out of respect for you.
Many people are concerned about the cost of counseling. The Journey to Peace program is designed to provide affordable mental health services. For those who are not eligible for this program, Seeking Shalom has other ways to provide affordable services. Some of the staff at Seeking Shalom are in network with a number of insurance plans and information is given to file for out of network benefits for other insurance companies. Some people also find it helpful to think of the fees associated with these services as an investment rather than a cost, because the benefits of counseling may extend well beyond the ending of sessions. Please also be prepared to pay for your sessions at the time when you see the counselor. Often, participants in a group will pay for all the sessions at the beginning.
Different individuals will have different results from counseling. No one counselor is the right person to work with every person seeking counseling. Part of this is the match between the person seeking help and the counselor. Additionally, different counselors will have different backgrounds and will be more qualified to deal with different issue(s) that you are needing to address. In the event that the match does not seem to be correct, either the individual(s) or the counselor may recommend that a referral be made to another counselor. The clinical director will determine if there is a better fit within our staff or whether we will recommend that you go somewhere else (either for all your needs or simply to work on one problem while continuing with your original counselor – this is often the case if you need to be evaluated for medications or to go through testing). Feeling safe and able to work in the counseling relationship is important.
Plan for Counseling
Your counselor will provide an assessment of what is going on. To do this the counselor will consider the information you provided on the intake form and what you discuss in the initial sessions. This will form the basis of describing what you are working on and the course counseling will take. Any plan developed will be shared with you and you should consider yourself a partner in developing the plan. As such, you have the right to question it and suggest changes. While this plan will guide the entire course of counseling for many people, if your counseling extends over numerous months the plan will be revisited periodically.
Yes, there is life after counseling. Some situations will be appropriate for short term counseling (solutions focused counseling for a single issue may only take a few sessions) while others will involve sessions over a longer period of time. If your counseling is extending over time, you may find that the frequency of sessions may vary over time. Most commonly sessions take place weekly in the beginning. Some situations may require more frequent sessions. As you continue in therapy, you might find that sessions occur every two or three weeks. In any case, the focus will be on what is appropriate to best help you to be able to find wholeness.
Just as the beginning of counseling is important, so is the ending of a counseling relationship. At the end of counseling, the counselor will help you to remember what you have learned and ways that you will be able to maintain wholeness. Your counselor will help you understand your post counseling expectations. As a former client, you will remain as someone that we care about. As a result, if something should come up, please feel free to be back in touch with us.