*I am working with BetterHelp to bring you this post*
Preparing for an appointment
I write my recent and past symptoms and any pressing concerns I have down on paper or in my phone on the notes app. I like to do this so I make sure to cover everything I want to. I also want to keep my counselor up to date on things going on in my life.
I like to make sure I schedule my appointments in the morning so I have time to fit in classes and other obligations later in the day. But if I know I’m working on something tough that day I’ll take time out afterward for a well deserved break to help me recover from my session.
Do your homework from your last session. This is important because it will allow the counselor to assess how you are doing. It will also show how you are doing and it can give you a starting point if you don’t know what else to bring up in session.
Wear a cute and comfy outfit you feel good in. You are most likely going to be uncomfortable in your session because counseling gets into all your dark spaces. Dressing comfy will allow you to feel more safe and comfortable among the uneasiness.
Make a self-care routine for before your counseling appointment. You can finish replying to emails before you go or take a shower or bath. You can do your dishes and tidy up or watch your favorite show. Listen to your favorite music or get in your exercise. This can improve your self-esteem, keep you up to date on your personal hygiene, and just make you feel good about yourself.
How does counseling work?
Usually if you are doing in person counseling you check in with the front desk and wait until your therapist comes out and calls your name. You then go in and sit wherever you like. Then the therapist will likely ask you some questions and you will answer and bring up any concerns. Then depending on the type of therapy you are having the therapist will give you techniques to cope or homework that you will practice outside of your appointment. Then you will make another appointment for whenever you and your therapist agree on. I usually go once a week but there is a possibility that you could go multiple times a week or even less than that, like once a month or every few months. It just depends on the therapists schedule and your schedule and current state. Therapy sessions usually last around 50 minutes.
Online counseling is a bit different. You can usually message your therapist at any point in the day and also have scheduled times to speak over messenger, phone, or video.
The first time I went into a new counseling center there was a stack of paperwork waiting for me at the front desk. Just confidentiality forms, medical history, insurance documents, and so on. This part isn’t the most interesting or helpful but it is important. And when I had any question about what I was filling out I asked a member of the center’s staff and they explained everything through for me.
I also was asked to come 15 to 30 minutes before my scheduled appointment to fill out the forms.
I first met with a coordinator. She was there to get to know me so she could find the right counselor for me. She asked me loads of questions about myself: my medical history, likes and dislikes, why I chose to come to therapy, family life, friends, and so on.
How to Recover from a Difficult Session
Therapy can sometimes be intense. I know I tend to cry during sessions, difficult or not. So here are my tips to help you recover from that hard therapy session:
Cry it out
If you kept it all together while in front of your therapist, let it all out once you are in the safety of your car or home. If you cry in sessions like I do, I know sometimes I still have things to cry about once I leave too. Crying is a good release for your emotions.
Drinking water is good for you in general but it is especially good after your body goes through a tough time like being tense or crying. I know I am usually tense during sessions, even more so when we are discussing difficult topics. Making sure you are well hydrated can keep away that tension headache too.
Write about it
Write down what happened in therapy and how you feel and how you want to feel, anything. Journaling helps me get down my thoughts and lets me keep track of my progress. Writing everything down including helpful tips your therapist may have given you is important for me. I have a whole notebook dedicated to my therapy notes.
Snuggle Your Pet
I love to come home and see my dogs. They are always so excited to see me and that makes me feel good. I help take care of them and in return I get a lot of love from my animals. If you do not have a pet and you like animals see if you can adopt one or visit a local pet shop or shelter and ask to see one of the dogs, cats, or other animals.
Take a Walk
Walking can help clear your mind (well I know it does for me). Exercise can also release endorphins and make you feel better. Walking gives me time to think over things but also distracts me when I am thinking too much.
Those are some of the things I personally like to do after a difficult therapy session. I hope these things can help you too. Remember your therapist/counselor should be looking out for you and if you don’t want to or aren’t ready to delve into difficult topics, that is okay.
I hope this post gave you an idea how counseling appointments go and how to prepare for them and how to recover from them. These are what I have personally experienced, it may be different for you. If you are struggling, please seek out professional help.
Thanks for reading!