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The First Step is the Biggest

So, here is my second blog. I thought it might be helpful if I talked a little bit about reaching out for help for the first time. Believe it or not, I know what you are thinking. You are struggling to deal with the day to day stuff because you are feeling pretty miserable and your resilience is low. You have been feeling this way for a while and you just can't seem to shrug it off.

There may be a range of things behind this. Maybe you are unhappy in your job. Maybe you are struggling with the current pandemic. Maybe you have experienced a bereavement or the break up of a relationship. Maybe you can't actually put your finger on it but you have been feeling this way for a while. So, what do you do? Do you reach out for help? Probably not! I know that it feels like a massive leap to even start looking for a therapist. It's scary, right? What will it be like? You are not sure you really want to talk to a stranger about how you feel. Or actually maybe you want to keep your head buried in the sand because to actually admit there is a problem feels huge. Maybe you are scared that you are 'mental' and you don't want to think of yourself as 'mental'.

Let me reassure you - all of the above is perfectly normal. Asking for help feels like a big deal for most people - yep, even us counsellors! But you know what, seeing a counsellor isn't a massive deal. I bet you will know loads of people who have seen counsellors but you don't even know it. It does not make you 'mental' (what even does this mean?).

It makes you a human. Humans are not superheroes. Sometime life gets us down. Sometimes we are hit with things left field and we struggle to process them. It is all part of the (sometimes crappy) richness of human life. But those parts of us that struggle to cope can actually bring us positives. They make us more empathetic and understanding to others situations. It can actually end up enhancing our social connections.

Who wants a friend, partner, family member who is perfect? I mean, really? We want someone who we love for who they actually are. So once you acknowledge that you need a bit of help and actually that is quite normal to need some help, it may feel less of a big deal. And once you find a therapist that you click with, therapy can really be the most amazing experience. I will talk a bit more in my next blog about what happens in the first session and hopefully that will also reduce the fear factor.

Anyway, so we have established that it is scary to reach out and ask for help. So once you have thought about it, what will your next step be? Well that depends on your current financial situation. If you are struggling financially there are places you can go to for free. Often your GP can refer you on to somewhere like a local charity or somewhere like Mind. Some of these counselling centres will accept self referrals. These centres can be brilliant - I know as I did placements at two of them. They all vary - some can provide long term therapy some only offer 6 sessions.

If you cannot afford private therapy they are brilliant but you may be placed on a long waiting list and it is unlikely you are able to select a therapist that you like. You can also check with your employer - many have what is called an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) where you can get up to 6 sessions for free and can usually get to see a therapist quickly.

If you can afford private therapy there are more options available. You are more likely to be seen quickly and you can select your own therapist under your terms. I would recommend that you google 'counsellor' and the area in which you live (saying that, with Covid there are many therapists working online, such as myself, and therefore location isn't important). Google will give you a list of different sites. Maybe it will take you directly to a therapists website but more than likely it will take you to sites that are directories for therapists - Counselling Directory, Psychology Today, BACP etc.

There are so many on there, who should you pick? So this is where it gets interesting. The main key to successful therapy is a therapist that you really click with. The relationship is really important. The good work only really happens when you have connected with your therapist on a deeper level. Don't forget you will be talking to your therapist in a way you dont speak to anyone else,

So you want to feel they actually 'get' you. And lets not forget that everyone is different. I have had my fair share of therapy across the years. And on the whole it was great. But it was my last therapist that it became life changing. As part of my training I had to have 60 sessions of therapy. To be honest, I looked for a therapist that I would be able to fit around my classes, study, placement etc rather than whether I liked the person. But my god, what a difference. She really 'got me'. It really was life changing.

I won't go on too much more about me, because this isn't about me. It is about you. I hope I have explained how important the relationship is. So my advice to you would be to read through several profiles. See if they appeal to you. Are you into alternative, holistic therapy? If so, maybe find someone who incorporates that into their work.

Are you a young female and worry that a much older therapist won't get you? Well there are plenty of young female therapists out there to choose from. Maybe you had a teacher at school that you were terrified of so you don't want someone who reminds you of the teacher. You might not want a therapist that reminds you of your mum, but equally you may feel more drawn to a therapist that reminds you of your mum!

So read all their personal descriptions. Who do you like the sound of? Don't get too hung up on what their qualifications are (unless you are looking for specifics such as addiction therapy) as for all these directories, to be able to advertise with them we have to meet criteria (properly qualified, registered with a membership body and have insurance).

I would suggest that you pick three of your favourites. Then get in touch with each of them - most will offer you a free 15 minute telephone call. Be honest with them. Tell them what is causing you the most concern, let them know your worries about counselling. This should guide you as to who is the best fit for you. Don't worry about offending the therapist - if they are worth their salt, they will want you to find the right therapist for you.

I have had enquiries from people where they tell me they are also contacting another couple of therapists. I have always wished them luck and I wasn't always selected. I can put my hand on my heart and tell you I am ok with that. Once you have had that telephone call, you are now more likely to find the right therapist for you.

So, I have waffled on and you may have got a bit lost in all the info so I will summarise - take the brave step to look for a therapist, go on google, select your top three, talk to each one before you make your final decision. Then hit the green light, book your first session and let the magic happen...

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