I wonder if this sentiment is familiar to you: New Year, New You!
I know that when both September and January start their approach, I notice a sense of new leaves turning, and fresh starts being made. I have a belief that these times of year are the ‘right’ times to make changes. So the start of a new calendar year and a new academic year are both times when I feel that things could be different.
And very often, the new years (academic and calendar) are when I make changes: I might join a new group, start a new class, or change my yoga routine. Maybe the practice of years of doing this mean that I’m correct, these are good times to start things.
But often, starting things can be a real struggle. We put things off for so many reasons, and even getting round to doing something we really want to do can sometimes just not happen quickly. We might end up missing out on something we thought we wanted, and we can easily criticise ourselves for procrastinating. The received wisdom is that we put off doing things we don’t want to do – even if they lead us somewhere we want to be. Maybe our job is really making us unhappy, but we put off applying for something new because we hate interviews. Or we have always wanted to learn ballroom dancing and a beginner’s class is starting up, but we don’t join it because we hate going to a class for the first time.
We want the long term thing to come true, but we feel like we can’t tolerate the short term pain we think we’ll have to endure to get there. I wonder if it feels like deciding to take a long distance coach to your destination for your dream holiday!
I guess I am thinking about this because counsellors report an increase in enquiries to start counselling in September and January. These are the people who know they’d like to feel the benefits of counselling, and have taken the steps they need to start counselling.
But there must also be people who’d like to have counselling – but who just aren’t getting around to making an enquiry and then booking an appointment. Part of me thinks that you will find counselling when you’re ready. And part of me thinks that maybe you are ready, but you just don’t want the short term pain that you imagine there might be – you are ready, but you’re procrastinating!
I’d like to reassure you that starting counselling probably won’t be as bad as you think – and you could break the process down into some smaller steps:
- write a short email text that you want to send to counsellors you might want to work with. Mention the times/days that you are available, and ask any questions you have. You might give a brief outline of the issues you are interested in exploring. Ask if the counsellor offers any initial meetings or chats before agreeing to book a session. You can also say that you plan to contact a number of counsellors as you are looking for the best fit. Have this text ready to copy and paste!
- look for a counsellor on the BACP Directory (https://www.bacp.co.uk/search/Therapists). This means that you know that everyone on there has done an accredited course. Search by your own area and see who appeals to you.
- contact everyone who appeals to you. You can do this from a form on the BACP Directory – just copy and paste the text you already wrote!
- keep an eye on your email spam folder, and look out for replies to your enquiries. Read the enquiries, and think about how you’d like to respond – when is going to suit you for an initial meeting or chat? Would you prefer to just jump in and start with someone?
- set up and have those initial meetings/chats. Ask anything you want, make notes if that’s going to help. Make sure that the times the counsellor has available are times that are going to suit you. You might want to say that you’ll be in touch in the next week if you’d like to go ahead, so you have some thinking time.
- And hopefully, after all these small steps, you’ve found yourself someone who feels like you’ll be able to work with. Someone who seems trustworthy, and who feels like they’ll be able to ‘get’ you.
Good luck – with the procrastinating, with the new years and fresh starts, and with starting counselling!
And if you have a sense that we could work well together, just send me a message on the contact form, or send an email to email@example.com