So you finally decided to take a leap and schedule a counseling session. Good for you! It often takes courage to reach out for counseling support and we look forward to journeying with you. Whether it’s your first time in counseling or you have done this before, you may have been placed on a waiting list. It may not be surprising that more people than ever before have been seeking counseling support over the past year. In fact, most counseling practices have been navigating high demand and waiting lists. While this is not the response you desired and waiting can be challenging, this time does not have to be in vain. In this article we provide some tips about how you can prepare for your first counseling session. As soon as we can pair you with a counselor, we want you to be ready to get the most out of the therapeutic experience. Our team looks forward to meeting you soon.

Consider visiting your doctor

Our physical and mental health is often intertwined, so it can be helpful to rule out any physical illness or hormonal imbalances. While there might be a lot more at play than just hormones, getting a full picture of your physical and mental health will help you and your therapist greatly. So, if you haven’t seen your doctor in a while, you might consider scheduling a check-up now.

Why are you coming to therapy?

Inevitably some of the first questions your counselor will ask you include, Why are you here today? What are your goals for therapy? These questions might seem daunting or overwhelming but consider the end goal. How would you like to feel, think, act, and change after working with a therapist? The more specific your answers are to these important questions, the better. Thinking about and writing these goals down doesn’t mean that your goals won’t change as you work with your therapist, but having a place to start will give you both a clear direction. Another question to ponder while you think about your goals is What is preventing you from reaching your goals in your circumstance and life right now? Some examples could be people, relationships, work, previous trauma, marriage difficulties, etc. As you prepare for your first counseling session, spend some time thinking about these questions in a relaxed way–as you sip your favorite tea, listen to music, or sit in silence. Of course we also encourage you to explore these questions in prayer (more about prayer below) and jot down your thoughts. It can be helpful to designate a specific notebook for therapy, so you can keep everything in one place.

Priority Lists!

When thinking about what you would like to talk about in your sessions, it might feel like there is a tornado of topics and you have no idea where to begin. Try writing a list with the answers to the following questions: What challenges are you facing right now? How are they impacting your work and relationships? What changes have you experienced within the last 6 months to a year? Are you struggling with your family situation or significant events? Now sit back and look at everything you listed. What do you think is the most pressing? Are there one or two issues that seem to summarize all the others? Try ranking the topics on your list—this may give you a clearer idea of where to begin with your counselor.

Take it to Prayer

As you prepare for your first counseling session, remember that the Lord wants to be your strength. Approach Him in prayer and cast all your worries upon Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:17). A particular saint that might be of comfort and solace is St. Dymphna. She is the patroness of those who suffer with mental and nervous disorders. Saint Dymphna is someone we can turn to when experiencing worry, fear, and anxiety. Saint Dymphna can be invoked for help with a range of mental issues, from daily stress to the more serious anxiety disorders. During time of waiting, we lean not on our own will and understanding but we are stretched to have greater trust in the will of the Holy Spirit.

Below is a prayer to St. Dymphna and to the Holy Spirit by Cardinal Mercier.

 

A Prayer to St. Dymphna

Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need. (Mention it.) Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions, beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request.

(Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be.)

Saint Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.

 

A Prayer to the Holy Spirit (by Cardinal Mercier)

O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore You.
Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me.
Tell me what I should do; give me Your orders.
I promise to submit myself to all that You desire of me
and to accept all that You permit to happen to me.
Let me only know Your Will.

 

Invest some time in helpful resources: Books, articles, podcasts, and more

While self-help books, online courses, and mental health apps aren’t a substitute for talk therapy, using some of these resources can be very helpful! Here are some books  and resources we recommend:
Addiction:
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Articles/Podcasts:

Anxiety/ Stress:

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Anger Management:

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Depression:

Books:

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Grief:

Books:

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Marriage:

Books:

Articles and Podcasts:

Parenting:

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Spirituality: 

Books:

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Hotline Resources
If you are feeling distressed and do not know what to do, call a hotline. You will be connected to someone who can help. Here are a few hotlines you might find helpful:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – Call 800-799-SAFE (7233) to take to a trained advocate. They provide support and information to anyone affected by domestic violence. All conversations are confidential.
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline – Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to talk to a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area for free. Crisis chat is available online as well.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255) if you or someone you know is in crisis—whether they are considering suicide or not—and you can speak to a trained crisis counselor 24/7.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline – 1-800-487-4889is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information

When to go to the Emergency Room
If you are feeling unsafe, or you aren’t sure what to do, visit your local emergency room. The emergency room might be able to provide some immediate assistance or provide you with treatment options to assist you right now.