Many people find it hard to know when to begin counselling. It can be a financial investment, it requires time, and it might bring up uncomfortable feelings or memories. On the other hand, counselling can be an empowering experience that reveals your strengths, gives you insight, and provides tools to improve your relationship with yourself and others. So how do you know when to bite the bullet and book that session?
When Should I Start Counselling?
The easy answer is that there’s no right time; you can choose to start counselling at any time and reap its benefits. However, I want to be honest with you: there are some things to take into consideration before you say yes to counselling.
Do I Have the Finances?
In British Columbia, a typical counsellor charges anywhere from $135-150 for a 50-minute session. This is a very real consideration to think about, but there are options to make this more affordable!
- If you have benefits at work, ask if counselling is covered.
- A doctor’s referral can open up options for you – ask them about it at your next visit.
- Some counsellors to offer reduced-cost services; a list has been compiled here (there are four LGBTQ+ options included).
Additionally, there are ways to make your money last even if you want to see a private counsellor at full cost. Determine what is affordable for you: meeting every week? Every other week? Every month? Tell your counsellor how often you can meet, and ask that they include “homework” for you to practice in between sessions so that you can keep your work at the front of your mind despite less frequent counselling sessions.
Do I Have the Emotional Bandwidth?
Counselling can cover a lot of different topics. Some are more practical, but there is always the chance that a conversation will hit an emotional nerve. A good counsellor will work to help you process and contain the emotion before ending the session, but it can still impact the rest of your day. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- If you are currently experiencing extreme instability in your life, counselling might not be right for you just yet. If you want to begin counselling anyway, it might help to focus on solution-oriented therapy that looks for helpful and practical solutions to your current situation before diving into deeper emotional topics.
- If you book a session in the middle of the day, plan to schedule a buffer of 10-15 minutes after the session to transition from the conversation back into your daily life.
- If you find that the topics you’re covering with your counsellor are causing you emotional distress outside of your session, ask to spend time developing coping strategies that can help you contain those feelings before moving into a new area.
Do I Know What I Want to Work On?
A lot of people enter counselling because they feel a general sense of unhappiness or lack of fulfillment. This is perfectly fine, and the counselling sessions can be used to explore what is causing these negative feelings. However, you can fast track your counselling experience if you enter knowing what you want to work on or what goals you want to work toward. Some examples might be:
- I’m going through a big life change, and I want to handle it better.
- I’m feeling isolated and I want to reconnect.
- I have doubts about my relationship that I want to explore.
- I’m in a great relationship and I want to set it up for success in the long term.
- I feel like I’ve lost control of my life (or my job, or my family, or myself) and I want to regain some control.
- I am grieving the loss of a person or opportunity, and I want to honor this loss while also moving forward with my life.
- I’m using a substance to cope with feelings of anxiety, depression, or guilt, and I want to substitute this with healthier coping mechanisms.
- Someone in my life is taking advantage of me, and I want to learn how to set boundaries to protect myself.
You might not be able to articulate your feelings or needs quite so specifically, but any level of focus will help you and your counsellor do meaningful work more quickly.
Are Multiple People Suggesting I Get Help?
Sometimes we are the last people aware of the fact that we’re drowning. Our perseverance and self-reliance can blind us to the fact that help might be needed. If there are trusted people in your life who are suggesting that you consider going to counselling, it might be worth considering the option.
If today is the right time for you to start counselling, I would love to work with you!
I am a Registered Clinical Counsellor who offers online sessions to adults (18+) living in British Columbia, Canada who are working through life, identity, and/or faith transitions, as well as:
- Gender identity and expression, sexuality, and sexual orientation
- Anxiety and depression
- Faith and spirituality, whether processing, deconstructing, or rebuilding
- Addictions and recovery
- Life transitions
- Stress and burnout