Questions to ask a counselor before starting sessions

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Make sure you’re on the same page and get the most out of counseling with these four key questions

Start advice first time can be quite intimidating – but add “fear of the unknown” into the mix, and that’s another worry to add to your mental load.

With that in mind, it really pays to take some time at the start of your counseling journey to ask questions and familiarize yourself with the commitment that awaits you. This can be in an initial request email, over the phone, or during your first session where you discuss your needs and expectations.

To help you get started, here, with the help of a cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist Nishat Ahmed, we explore four important questions to ask a counselor before you start working with them, to get the most out of your sessions.

1. What will my sessions look like?

“It’s important to know what type of therapy your counselor is doing, as well as what to expect from your session structure,” says Nishat.

“For any kind of therapy or psychological counseling to be beneficial, you must be able to engage in the process – and you will only engage in the process if you adhere to it and have reasonable faith in the principles for give it a good go. For this reason, it’s good to have a basic understanding of the practice, and what the 50 minutes to an hour will look like, to see if that’s what you’re looking for.

Do some research beforehand to get an idea of ​​the different types of advice available – for example, psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), cognitive analytical therapy (CAT), humanistic therapies, and interpersonal psychotherapy – and don’t be afraid to ask for more specific information from the counselor if you are aren’t quite sure what a session might involve.

2. Have you ever worked on similar issues?

It is always reassuring to know that there are other people out there who have been through things similar to you, and when it comes to contacting an advisor, knowing that they have explored this area with clients before can be helpful. give you another layer of confidence.

“I’m sure most of the counselors and therapists you meet will be fully qualified in the type of therapy they offer,” says Nishat. “However, some advisers will experience some issues and not others. To make you feel comfortable and confident with your advisor, check out their previous experiences of working with similar challenges. This might give you an idea of ​​how realistic it is to achieve your goals.

“The main job of your counselor is to help you get closer to your goals and reduce your psychological distress”

3. What do you expect from me as a customer?

“A lot of people don’t realize that coming for therapy is a big commitment,” says Nishat. “The main job of your counselor is to help you get closer to your goals and reduce your psychological distress. But we cannot do it alone.

“Therapy needs to be collaborative and, that being said, some types of therapy may require you to do ‘homework’ outside of sessions, bring items to the session agenda, or just have the will to. open up. Find out what level of commitment is required from you to reap the most benefits.

Nishat also recommends asking how often you will be in touch – how often will your sessions be, can you email them outside of sessions or take additional sessions if you feel like you need them?

4. What is your cancellation policy?

“Things crop up in life that may require you to cancel a session, so ask how your advisor will handle late cancellations or no-shows, so that you are aware of the commitment you are making,” says Nishat. “Every counselor will need a way to handle cancellations to reduce the wait time for others, so don’t be surprised if you’re charged for missing a session if you haven’t given notice. “

Some advisors may also require advance notice to terminate their services, and while it may seem like a very distant problem when you’re just starting out, having an informed understanding of what your counseling journey will look like will put you on the right foot. , and helps you get started in the process with confidence.


Nishat Ahmed is a cognitive behavioral psychotherapist working in London in the NHS and in private practice. Learn more about counseling and get in touch with an advisor using annuaire-conseil.org.uk


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