Expert chat: What to expect from counselling

Counselling expert, AllieYouth counsellor Allie from Off The Record answers your questions on getting over bad experiences, how to cope when your sessions finish and starting out with a new counsellor.

p>[Chris: I've had bad experiences with counselling in the past and it's really affected me. I don't know how to get over the fear of going again.

Allie: Hi Chris, it sounds like you might be finding it hard to trust that things will work out differently this time and that you're still quite hurt about what happened before.

Chris: I was offered CBT recently but I refused it, I guess partly for that reason, as well as others.

Allie: I wonder, when things went wrong in the past, were you able to talk to the counsellor about what was happening?

Chris: I attended a support group for young people, and I found it OK to talk to my counsellor there, but one-to-one was harder.

Allie: It sounds to me like it felt easier in the group for you.

Chris: Yeah, because the others understood.

Allie: Sometimes counselling one-to-one is difficult, but what's important is that you feel you can talk to your counsellor about any difficulties you're having. If you're struggling to talk to them about difficulties with the counselling, sometimes it can help to talk to someone else.

Natalie: I'm thinking of trying to get my boyfriend to go to counselling, but I know it won't happen.

Allie: I see. It sounds to me like your boyfriend might not be sure about counselling but you think it would be a good idea?

Natalie: Yeah, he definitely doesn't want it, but I know there's nothing more I can do to help him and I really do think he needs help.

Allie: That sounds like a really difficult situation for you. Do you know what his concerns are about coming to counselling? A lot of people feel very nervous about getting started or worried that it means that they're 'mad' - feeling like that is really normal.

Natalie: He's worried about people finding out about it and it affecting his chances of becoming a doctor. He also thinks it won't help him.

Chris: I felt the same before I started; I didn't want it. You just think it's not going to help and what's talking to a stranger going to do? But talking does help. It's good you want to help him

Allie: People have a lot of ideas about coming to counselling and worry that it will affect them later on down the line. Going to see a counsellor is confidential. Your boyfriend's counsellor won't tell anyone that they're seeing him unless he talked about harming himself or someone else, so it wouldn't affect his application to become a doctor.

Daisy: I'm finishing my sessions at school and I'm going to start with CAMHS as soon as there's an appointment. I'm not looking forward to it because it means I have to go through everything again and that's worrying me. It will also be someone I don't know.

Allie: Hi Daisy, starting with someone new can feel really daunting and you can be left not knowing where to begin. Hopefully from seeing your counsellor at the moment you have an idea of what the most important things are or that you'd like to explore with your counsellor at CAMHS.

Daisy: I don't really know what I want, I just know what others want for me.

Allie: Sometimes not knowing what you want can be a problem in itself. Maybe the first part of the counselling will be about finding out what it is that you want to get out of it. Hopefully your counsellor will be able to support you to do that.

Mel: I was wondering what sort of help counselling would be for anxiety and depression. I used to go to CAMHS when I was 15 but I only talked to a social worker, which didn't really help. I've never been to counselling before.

Allie: Hi Mel, thanks for your question. With depression and anxiety there are lots of different types of counselling that could help, so it can be hard to know where to begin. You can read up on different types of therapy as you might find that some feel more suited to you. The Mix has an article that can help you to distinguish the different types of therapy available.

Sarah: I've always found the last session of counselling the hardest. Are there any tips to make if feel easier?

Allie: Hi Sarah. Can I ask if you're in counselling now and coming towards an ending or are you thinking about when you're in counselling again in the future?

Sarah: I ended a few weeks ago but found it really difficult and still feel shitty sometimes.

Allie: The transition of coming out of counselling can be really difficult. If ending the counselling is something you have found to be really hard, then putting that on the table with your new counsellor right from the start can be really helpful. It means you'll have lots of time to prepare for when things come to an end.

Sarah: They knew I found it difficult, I did tell them. I think when I get to trust someone I end up stupidly building a close relationship with them.

Allie: It's really important that you feel able to trust your counsellor and that will have helped you to get something out of it - you shouldn't feel stupid about having a close relationship. Try to remember what helped you to feel supported in your counselling in the weeks ahead.

Sarah: I guess so. I've taken a lot away from it; I guess I just feel spaced out at the moment.

Allie: Hopefully when things ended, you talked about how you would cope. Try to hold on to some of that. Your reaction sounds really normal Sarah; you've lost a big piece of support in your life.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015