What can I expect in a counseling session?

By Rifa Rasheed

When we hear the word “counseling” we immediately get a mental image of the stereotypical “counseling approach” that is portrayed on television, cinema, and social media. Misconceptions around help-seeking depicted on those platforms discourage and hide the purpose of counseling. It is a sign of strength to accept we need professional help when we are struggling with emotional difficulties, life challenges, and mental health concerns. A counselor can help us with a myriad of different concerns in our daily lives. It could be an understanding of the issues we are facing, as a feeling of being stuck in a job that we don’t like or perhaps suffering from depression or anxiety or about life itself.

When you decide you need professional help, the best help is found in talking things through with someone who is trained to listen. A counselor does not simply sit and listen to what you will be saying. They will provide you with guidance and coping strategies for your issues that you never thought you could help yourself with. 

Here are some of the most frequently asked counseling questions:

What is the purpose of going into counseling? 

The ultimate goal of a counseling session is to assist you in facing your problems and empowering you with the tools to overcome those problems by yourself. Most of these resources are self-help tools that support you to move forward and clear any obstacles that may appear in the future. 

The aim of every session is that you will walk out of the door feeling better than when you arrived. To make progress, you must recognize that there is value in every meeting. You should also make an effort to progress towards your goal of self-improvement.

Is what I say in counseling kept confidential?

Information about your counseling sessions or what is discussed in the session is not shared with anyone without expressed written permission. However, if there is the possibility of harm to yourself or another person, or in cases of child or elder abuse, counselors are mandated to report certain information to the appropriate authorities. Your counselor will review confidentiality with you at the outset of treatment and answer any questions you may have.

Will the counselor bombard me with questions?

When you seek the help of a counsellor, they will need to communicate with you to make sense of your issue and to help you through them. It’s a conversation you build with the counselor. They will ask questions to understand your predicament better so they can help you through it. These professionals are trained to create a comforting and empathetic environment for their clients. So, while some of the questions asked could be a bit personal, such as about your lifestyle, relationships, childhood, work, and social experiences, they will respect your needs and will always give you the privacy you need if you wish not to answer.

 All types of counseling and therapy are a team effort, which is just like going to the gym. You should play an active role to get the best out of the sessions.

What can I do to prepare for that first session?

Decide to be open and honest in expressing your thoughts and feelings. The counselor will ask some personal questions. As I said before, although highly trained and experienced, counselors can only work with the information you share with them. To help the counselor understand you and your problems, you have to answer the questions that the counsellor asks. This is how a relationship is established and developed. 

You can prepare yourself ahead of the first session by writing down how you feel and what changes your mood and feelings. Read what you wrote to yourself. This will help you to clarify your mind and to describe your feelings to the counselor. Thus, it will help the counselor show you how you can make progress toward your goal and/or self-improvement.

Create a list of questions that you want to ask the counselor and do not hesitate to ask questions from the counselor. Aim to have a firm understanding of what’s going to happen and how this experience will help you reach your goals.

What if I want to switch counselors?

If you are finding it difficult to connect with your counselor or, if you feel like he/she is not a good fit, you can always directly talk to your counselor regarding that. They will not be angry or offended by that. This is something some of the clients go through. Even counselors sometimes find it difficult to connect with their clients. If the counselor realizes that he/she is not the best fit to assist you in overcoming your problems, he/she would recommend you to someone who they believe might be able to help. There is nothing wrong with finding another counselor if you or the current counselor are finding it hard to connect and communicate freely.

More from Explore

Supporting a loved one with mental illness

By Nishaya AhmedMuch like physical illnesses, watching a loved one struggle with a mental illness can be particularly heart-wrenching. Oftentimes, you’re left on the sidelines, wondering how you can help...

Read more

Myths and facts about mental health

By Mohamed Ilh’aan NishamMental health can be a difficult concept to understand without the proper education and awareness. This could be a hindrance when it comes to learning more about...

Read more

Coping with mental illnesses

By Mohamed Ilh’aan NishamMental illnesses or mental health disorders refer to a wide range of mental health conditions that can cause an effect on an individual’s mood, thinking, behavior, and...

Read more