Friday 8 December 2017

My First Counselling Experience

Ella writes first-hand about her first counselling experience and the benefits she has encountered.
-Ella Garrett

Ever had someone read you like a book? One that is ‘well-thumbed’, loved and read over and over until you almost know it off by heart?  That is pretty much how I felt after my first counselling session last week.

I was nervous. I had no idea what to expect; if I was going to be thought of as ‘well enough’ to not require a chat with a professional and whether I would find opening up to a stranger easy. These concerns weren’t massively far off. One of the first questions I was asked was whether I was “successful” last year. This threw me. I have seen many people who are academically successful suffer mentally – I would go so far to even suggest that sometimes the more academically successful you are, the more you are likely to have a mental health problem.

After this hurdle I was increasingly nervous about what was to come. This first meeting was an initial assessment, so it ultimately resulted in me providing her with a summary, rather than a synopsis, of my life. She provided brief interjections, pressed me for more information on difficult topics to discuss and went down the typical ‘counsellor’ type routes of questioning. Did my parents neglect me too much or love me too much? Did I have a strong support network? What did I want from counselling? I had no hobbies, so had I tried yoga? 

Although I was slightly unimpressed with my lack of epiphany over the usual assessment questions, the session seemed to simultaneously provide clarity as well as completely scrambling my brain on things that I have held close to me my whole life. Where I had considered myself a ‘closed book’, hard to read, and mysterious about how I felt; this woman stomped all over that belief and summarised me very easily. Well, so much for that Bond style mystery! For starters, she immediately realised that I struggled with developing a balance in life, on many aspects, something that I had never connected myself. What previously had felt like doing a dot-to-dot without any knowledge of numbers soon linked up into creating a clear picture – not the best analogy but you get my drift. 

After the session, and being booked in for another in 2 weeks’ time, I could only describe the scenario as very sobering. Things that I have never discussed with the closest of friends and family, due to either lack of trust or fear of judgement, were freely discussed in a 35-minute discussion. I felt like I basically gave up my whole personality to assessment in such a short time, which is what felt weird. It is undeniable that she made me feel better about certain things. She confirmed that parts of my life, past and present, were not how they should be, and that I wasn’t wrong or troubled for feeling a certain way. But just the concept of someone knowing everything about me is kind of terrifying.

I think it is definitely very easy to disregard counselling, turn to medication or ignore a problem and allow it to continue to be detrimental to your wellbeing. Medication was not effective for me and letting something gnaw away very quickly became too much. I know of friends who are scared to speak to someone, maybe the fears of trust and judgement that I mentioned fuels this for others too, but it’s just not the case. I already feel like I will make real progress here. I would recommend counselling to anyone who needs to talk openly about what’s going on in their mind.

If you or somebody you know is struggling with mental health at University, check out the Student Minds page on finding support for further information here.

Hi, I'm Ella. I'm currently in my third year at the University of York where I am studying English Literature and Philosophy. In my first year, I was diagnosed with Atypical Depression and have made it a personal mission ever since to encourage discussion and raise awareness around the subject - leading to my desire to write for Student Minds!

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