One Client’s Interpretation or Feedback
Making a decision to generate an appointment for counselling (or even one on one coaching) can arrive either spontaneously or after several days, weeks, months even years of contemplation. Either way the first session can be a little nerve racking. Here is one person’s experience however only one person’s interpretation of counselling.
“I’ve been referred to counselling by my doctor who noticed I was shaking. All tests revealed I had no real physical problems except ‘stress’. I liked the doctor I stumbled upon, he didn’t ask too many questions and I think I had seven minutes with him so referrals were his best diagnosis. He gave me two choices, one with a psychologist and one with a counsellor. I felt I just wanted to talk, not take tests so I chose the counselling.
When I arrived I was shaking more than ever, a bit nervous I think because I didn’t know what to expect. I just stood in the waiting room because I was on my own and not game to sit down in case I couldn’t get up. It seemed comfortable with just a few paintings of the seaside which I was being drawn into when the counsellor, June, stepped out of her room. She came and stood next to me looking at the painting and said ‘I love the beach, do you? I’m June by the way’. I immediately relaxed because there was nothing threatening about this first interaction. ‘Yes’, I said, ‘yes I do, brings back many happy days when I was a child at the beach, my father and mother would take us all to a different beach each school holiday once a year. I remember eating peanut paste or vegemite sandwiches when we got there and for a special treat, honey. The bread was always fresh, bought right there at a bakery at the beach and sliced up by my father, yes they were happy memories’. I felt good then and accepted going into her room.
There were two windows, four comfortable lounge chairs and a low coffee table with a box of tissues in between two of the chairs. June offered me a seat on one of those and she sat down. I was quite nervous then, knowing I was expected to speak and when June started with something about confidentiality and harming myself or others I just agreed that this was not on my radar but then I started talking and talking and talking and talking. I think it was nervous energy, I don’t know what it was and June sat there and occasionally nodded and had facial expressions that seemed to mirror the pain I was going through. She didn’t speak, she probably couldn’t get a word in even if she wanted to but the feeling I had of just talking non-stop without interruption was hugely relieving.
As I sat there forward in my chair with my hands in my lap wringing my fingers, I felt angry and sad all at the same time. June was sitting slightly forward as well, I knew she was listening, her hands in her lap and occasionally moving them subtly, I noticed and felt that she was on my side, that she was like me. She didn’t look anything like me, I don’t know why I thought she was like me, maybe because she was female, I’m not sure, it was just the feeling, plus she was letting me talk. She didn’t interrupt the flow of words that came out of me once and I felt safe to keep talking. When I stopped, she said nothing, my mind was racing, I started thinking about the words I had just said, started thinking about what they meant and in the silence, I started to cry, the tears flowing, my shoulders shuddering, I grabbed some tissues, June didn’t move. Thank goodness, I couldn’t have coped if she had got up and done anything, anything at all would have made a difference, I may have tried to stop crying, to force myself but somehow I felt safe to just cry.
I have no idea how long I cried, all the frustrations of the years wasted, the joy of what I have done, where I have been and now as I sit here, I just stopped with half a box of tissues crumpled up in my lap. I took a deep breath and June took a breath with me. I felt safe; she knew. I didn’t even have to say anything, I felt she knew. I apologised, I know I didn’t have to but it’s what I do, apologise for everything. I stood up and mumbled, ‘I’ve been wasting your time I’m sorry. All I’ve done is cry’. June said “Actually you’ve shared a great deal of your life with me today and I so appreciate it. What you have shared is valuable and I will treat your words with complete respect and hold them safely until you decide to come back. We can make another appointment if you would like or wait a few days and then see how you feel ok?’ June walked to the door and at the same pace I moved, she opened it and walked me out. I felt so relieved, there was no pressure to stay or go or do anything. I felt I was completely accepted and there was no judgement at all from her. She didn’t ask me if I was ok or was I safe to drive or anything and I knew that she knew I was fine. It was such a comfortable feeling that I had with this person I just met who totally got me and she hardly said a word.”
This is an example of rapport building – that basic first interaction with a client; Person-Centred Therapy. Below is a short video of what this could look like so have a watch and share your thoughts. Through the coming months we will delve into the intricacies of rapport building ‘techniques’. When it looks like you’re not doing anything, it’s all happening.
***Note: these example videos are for educational purposes only and based on made-up scenarios. Any similarities to specific people are purely coincidental.***