Help, It’s My First Time – Seeing A Counselor
Taking the step to improve your well-being is a big deal, it can also be scary and you may be experiencing anxiety about the unknown. Before we meet for the first time I want to provide you a simple guide of what to expect from our sessions, especially the first few.
During the first few sessions we will spend the majority of time gathering information and building a rapport. Trust takes time, while the first few things you tell me will be about the symptoms you are experiencing, we will need to go deeper to understand why you are experiencing these symptoms and what plan we can use to help you overcome them.
This may not be easy for you, disclosing trauma is difficult – don’t get discouraged if you struggle with this. My promise as your counselor is to provide a safe space for you to express yourself fully.
We will begin developing and practicing a treatment plan for you using the SMART Goals Method; specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely. Treatment plans are designed to meet you where you are. For example, if you are not a physically active person but want to run a marathon we will start with small goals like taking a daily 15 minute walk, working up to you running a marathon. SMART goals will grow with you, and you will be able to see your goals being reached in real time.
Continuing with treatment we will use psychoeducation, specifically Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to address your core beliefs or schemas. Core beliefs are the views and perceptions we hold about ourselves, others, and the world around us. They’re shaped by our past experiences, especially those from early childhood.
The CBT Model focuses on our: thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
Cognitive Coping Skills
Don’t worry, I will practice all new skills with you.
14 Day Challenge, Gratitude Writing
For 14 days straight write in a notebook three (3) things you are grateful for, without repeating any. This exercise trains the brain to see good things around us.
Build Awareness of Thoughts
- Challenge Thoughts: Write down your thoughts, keep a notebook nearby, or a notes folder on your phone, to write thoughts as they come up. Our thoughts are buried in our minds, putting it on paper makes it visual, helping bring clarity. By making the thoughts visual we can more easily challenge, prove or disprove them.
- ie: I can’t lose weight. Challenge that thought, are you actually trying to lose weight?
- Shifting Thoughts: Make your negative thoughts more neutral or positive.
- ie: Original thought: I can’t lose weight. Shifted thought: I can lose weight.
Keep shifted thoughts direct and simple, change only one or two words as needed. Even if you don’t believe the shifted thought, say it out loud and write it down. Our brains don’t know the difference and will log the positive thought in the subconscious. In time it will come out in the conscious mind.
- Positive Affirmations: Listen to or say positive affirmations, I am pretty, My hair is beautiful, I am a good person, I am loved, just to name a few, in the first two (2) hours of your morning, before your brain has had a chance to fully turn on. Like in shifting thoughts, even if you don’t believe them, say them or listen to them. Our brains log this information in the subconscious so it can be reiterated in our conscious mind. Practice getting sunlight exposure first thing in the morning as well, this wakes the mind and body.
To help with our emotional responses to external stimuli we will work on relaxation skills, specifically breathing techniques.
Breathing is important, not only because it provides oxygen to our bodies, but because most of us are breathing wrong. Yes, I know, if you were breathing wrong you wouldn’t be alive, so on a cellular level you are breathing just fine, but on a life level you aren’t – but none of us are so don’t worry.
When we breathe properly we bring in enough oxygen but we also expel harmful toxins like carbon dioxide more fully from our bodies. This means using our chest and abdominal area to breathe, getting the ribs and diaphragm fully engaged.
There are numerous breathing and meditation exercises we will practice together.
Try this one on your own for five (5) minutes.
Lie on the floor, with your spine straight. Place one hand one your chest and one on your abdomen. Breathe in, filling your chest and then stop. Hold for a few seconds and then breathe out. Breathe in again, filling your abdomen with air. Hold for a few seconds and then release the air. Feel the difference between the two types of breathing. Understanding the difference helps you learn how to control your breathing.
What If I Mess Up?
Life is messy, and we are not perfect. It is important that you be honest with yourself and your counselor when old habits creep back in.
We will prepare for a lapse, a brief return of old thoughts, or relapse, a return of old thoughts and behaviors, so that if they come up you can feel confident about getting back on track. These are only setbacks and are not indicative of your success or failure with counseling.
Starting counseling is an amazing step to improve your well-being, getting started though can be challenging. As your counselor I am here for you, I support you, and I will be honest to you.
If you haven’t already Contact Me Here to schedule your free phone consultation and get started on your journey to well-being.