What Can Gay Men Expect in Counselling?
Starting counselling can be something that floats in your mind (or on your to-do list) for months, or even years. And even with it being something you might always be meaning to get around to, it can keep getting delayed.
Why does this happen?
There’s a few reasons. Saying “yes” to counselling can feel like a big commitment. And the truth is, it is. Counselling asks you to commit your time, energy, and money to a process that people say works. Yet, you still wonder if it will work for you (good news, counselling does work).
That’s just the start of it though. Meeting a complete stranger, even if they’re experienced and trained in human relationships, can feel downright scary.
Not to mention that you’re telling this stranger some of the most personal details of your life: your fears, hopes, and dreams. Sweating yet? How’s your breathing doing? If you laughed at that, it’s probably because you realize how present the anxiety about starting counselling can be.
And guess what? That’s totally okay, and it’s normal to feel that way. 🙂
It can take some time to feel comfortable with a new person, even if they’re a counsellor (or you might be thinking, especially if they’re a counsellor). At the end of the day, comfort and trust are built through your experience of someone else showing you that they’re empathic, dependable, and understanding about your needs.
Often, it’s not easy saying “yes” to a change, even if we know it’s good for us. And if this describes you, it means you’re actually very normal. The human brain loves to keep us in familiar circumstances, even if those circumstances can cause us continued distress.
Sometimes knowing about a process lowers the threshold of our anxieties enough to allow us to move forward. So with this in mind, here’s a brief overview of the 3-step counselling process I use with clients that’s designed specifically for gay men.
You’ll get some immediate relief and clarity by feeling understood
The first step is to understand. This starts with our very first interaction over email or on the phone. A big part of what makes counselling effective is the counselling relationship. From the very start, I’m welcoming, understanding, and nonjudgmental so that the comfort and trust in our relationship can start to build right away.
This includes the free consultation call I have at the start with all new potential clients. This call lets us meet each other and get a sense of if I, or another colleague is the best fit for what you’d like to work on.
This initial call alone might feel daunting, especially if you’re worried about what a counsellor might think of the issues you’d like to work on. It’s completely understandable to feel this way, particularly if people have not taken your struggles seriously in the past.
At the same time, this type of conversation is exactly what I’m trained for as a counsellor: to listen empathically and nonjudgmentally so that we can get you the best possible help. Whatever you’d like to work on won’t be judged or shock me. 🙂
You’ll gain deeper understanding by slowing down… so that you can go fast
Once you’ve decided to go forward with counselling, we’ll continue the deepening of our understanding about what you’d like to work on.
This includes an intake assessment I have all new clients complete that asks about their personal history and current struggles. The purpose of the assessment isn’t to diagnose you or put you in a box. Rather, it’s to really understand the issue and goals you’d like to work on so that we can develop a clear path forward.
In the first one to two sessions, we’ll focus on developing this understanding and then agreeing on some specific goals to help guide the counselling.
I like to think of this as “going slow to go fast.” We slow down at the start to really understand the issue so that we can move through the next steps as efficiently and effectively as possible.
We also make sure that you have some practical skills to regulate and ground yourself emotionally so that you have something practical to work on between sessions, and so that the next steps are easier.
You’ll find healing so that you can start to enjoy your life more fully
After we’ve gotten an understanding of the issues and goals you’d like to focus on, you’ll likely notice that you’re already feeling better.
In the next step, we’ll usually do some more specific interventions that really help to transform your pain into healing.
For example, we might do some EMDR, which is one of the gold standards for treating trauma.
I’ll be honest, this step of counselling can be emotionally exhausting, but this is actually a good sign. It means that you’ve really arrived at the issue and are now in the process of leaving it and healing.
It’s also important to say that when I work with clients, you’re always the one who decides the pace and what you’re comfortable doing. We can go faster, slower, or stop with something whenever you want. In the end, the counselling is about what you need, and you know that best. 🙂
You’ll find out how to grow, in counselling… and beyond
The last step of counselling focuses on how to take the healing you’ve gotten and continue growing in the direction you want–both inside and outside of counselling.
Sometimes even the changes we want in life can come with their own challenges. So in this step, we focus on how you can overcome some of the pitfalls that come with change, and how to set you up for future success once counselling ends.
You’ll get as much help as you need
At the end of counselling, some people say goodbye once they’ve addressed the issue that originally brought them to counselling, and we don’t do any further work together.
For a lot of other people, they may end counselling and then return for occasional check-up sessions now and then as new issues arise. Or, enter counselling again at a later date as they meet new challenges in life.
Either way, my goal is to get you the help you need, and make myself obsolete so that you’re only in counselling as long as you need to be. 🙂
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