Reaching out to a counsellor can be a very scary thing for most of us. I mean, “I’m going to unload all of my troubles and fears to this complete stranger?!!” It can feel very overwhelming.
The reality is, we don’t know, what we don’t know. Removing some of that mystery may make things easier for the client. (I, personally use the term client, because the image of a patient is not very empowering.) Therefore, I want to walk you through an Intake Session.
Remember that every counsellor is going to have their own methods, this is simply what I do.
After you first reach out to me expressing an interest in having a first session, I reply with the following 2 assignments for you to do:
Before we meet, I would like you to do these two assignments and send them to me. You can keep them very simple if you like:
First; I would like you to draw up a baseball diamond and name the most pressing presenting problem(s) in your life at home plate (at the bottom of the page). As you move to the pitcher’s mound (Center), name other problems that are also serious, but not as urgent. As you move along the bases (Counter-clockwise at 3, 12 and 9), name other issues in your life that you want to work on. Finally, in the outfield (at the very top), name other issues that are not as pressing~ more like they’re on the “back-burner” that you would like to address someday in the future. If baseball is a foreign concept, then just make a list and that’ll be fine.
Second; Write down 10 goals~ what you want to achieve in your life between now and when you turn 75. Begin each one of them with: I want to … Do your best, but don’t worry if you don’t have 10 at this time. Send the assignments to me before the session. Thank you.
The first exercise examines the past and the second one examines the future. We will also look at issues of “self-care” during the first session. Change is painful~ but it is necessary to go through the pain of change.
So we begin our first session. I tend to prefer meeting via Skype video. I explain that everything discussed is covered by Canadian Confidentiality Laws. We also discuss fees and how we deal with sudden cancelations, etc.
So we begin with either questions they may have, or the two assignments, or their own story beginning in childhood, growing up. That is up to the client to decide. In the beginning, I’m mostly listening, posing the odd question for clarification. I explain that I am here to assess, and not to judge. My focus as an inter-faith pastoral counsellor is on both mystery and grace. The pastoral side looks at the power of stories in religious or secular literature that touch us, that we resonate with.
After 30 minutes, I inform them that their free block of time has run out. They may elect to continue, and we turn on the “meter” or they may elect to end the session. If they end it, I try and ascertain if they might want to set up an appointment another time, or not. If not, that is fine. I only ask that if they found the session helpful, that they might refer me to others. If they do wish to have a session in the near future, then let me know when would be best. (It does not need to be written down in stone at this time.)
Finally, how I and a few other fellow counsellors are different than more traditional therapists.
First, I am very eclectic in my approach and methodology.
Second, When possible, I let the client decide how long the session will be. Typically it will end at a half-hour mark, but they decide when they are finished. It’s not always ideal, but we do what we can. (I have had very long sessions with certain clients…they have found it to be beneficial.)
Third, like many therapists, I offer a “sliding scale”. If a person cannot afford to pay the full fee, we will come to an agreement on a lower fee. I do not do “free therapy”, I think that is most unhelpful. A client needs to feel that s/he is giving and receiving something from the work they are doing.
Counselling is hard work. There is much pain. Journeying together is a healing art. I hope that you have found this to be helpful in taking the first step in getting in touch. Remember, there is hope!