One of our Therapeutic Service Coordinators Explains....
As a therapeutic services co-ordinator, I often find myself face to face with people where it has obviously taken tremendous courage to seek our help.
It is so easy for friends and family, GP’s and the like to say ‘sounds like you need some professional help – why don’t you contact the Women’s Centre and get some counselling, or something!’ To many who have never been in this situation before and are already feeling extremely vulnerable, this must conjure up an image that even the most confident person would shy away from. Fear of the unknown and being judged must surely spring to mind to those feeling far removed from their usual selves. The first question they may have is ‘What is counselling?’
With this in mind, I would like to explain what exactly happens when someone makes that first call. In order to do this and from what I have witnessed first hand, I think the best way might be for me to place myself in the position of someone who may feel anxious, vulnerable, fearful and who has had a real struggle to take that initial step to come for assessment.
“My friends had noticed changes in me and said they were concerned. I must admit, I had been feeling at a low ebb; not able to motivate myself and had forgotten what it was like to enjoy things. One of them suggested I go to Lancashire Women’s Centre to get some counselling. I couldn't face walking through the door and felt fearful of what they might think of me if I did. One day, I plucked up the courage to pick up the phone – the female voice on the other end was patient and listened to me whilst I struggled to explain what I thought I might need; and even then, I wasn't entirely sure. The person calmly explained that if they could take a few details from me, I would be contacted within a couple of days and an appointment would be made for me to come in and see someone.
Although anxious, I found myself pondering over what would happen next, but felt a mild sense of relief that I had taken the step to call. Again my nervousness was unfounded when I was contacted a day later by someone wishing to book me in for an assessment with one of the therapy team – they told me the appointment would take around half an hour and I would have everything explained to me about what support I could get during that time. I was given the date, time and name of the person I would be seeing and told to ask for her on my arrival. It did not seem long to wait at all and by now, although wondering what I had started, I was telling myself I had to go through with it so I could begin to feel better.
The day arrived and I was ‘nervous as hell’; I felt I wanted to just turn around and walk away as soon as I stepped foot in the door – however, I was met with a kind, friendly face who offered me a warm drink and asked me to take a seat whilst she went to get the person I was seeing. Before I had time to even think about escaping again, someone was calling my name and inviting me to follow them into a cosy little room with two easy chairs and pictures on the wall.
I was invited to sit where I felt comfortable whilst the lady introduced herself – she seemed really warm and friendly, but most of all, had a calmness about her which put me at my ease. Although this was by no means a therapy session (as she explained at the beginning), I felt listened to and safe to discuss the issues I was facing without being pushed in any way. I was surprised to learn not only that counselling was completely different to what I had imagined, but there were other therapies on offer that may suit me better and even a programme of courses that I could progress to.
I felt better than expected at the end of this assessment meeting and with the lady’s help, chose counselling - it was sad when the appointment came to an end; I was already feeling much lighter and a little better for having spoken to someone who could listen without judgement to my experiences – I was told I wouldn't have to wait any longer than a few weeks and found although I had learned that it would be a journey of discovery with ups and downs, I was actually looking forward to meeting my new counsellor”.
When I speak of a journey of discovery with ups and downs, I mean that counselling is not tea and sympathy where we just listen and nod, nor is it lying on a couch being psychoanalysed. A counsellor will focus and listen without judging or criticising you. You will be encouraged to express your feelings and emotions in a safe environment. By offering reflections on what they are seeing, thinking and feeling in the here and now a counsellor can hopefully help you gain a better understanding of your thoughts processes and feelings as well as identifying ways of finding your own solutions.
Some people worry that their problems and experiences are not ‘great enough’ and that there are others who are much worse off, but it can be a great relief to share worries and fears with someone who acknowledges your feelings and is able to help a person reach a positive solution and my belief is that no matter how small and illogical a problem may seem, if it is affecting someone’s ability to function and living ‘rent free’ in their head, then it is by no means wasting someone’s time!
As the saying goes, ‘Saying someone can’t be sad because someone else may have it worse is just like saying someone can’t be happy because someone else might have it better’.
The fear of therapy is the fear a person gets before a roller coaster moves - it’s an uphill climb and an immense rush of fearful exhilaration on the way down; but imagine the euphoria of having achieved and conquered the ride – the ride is much easier with two and if therapist is there to offer encouragement then we gain in confidence along the way and eventually are able to make our own way once more.