Counselling is a process, a very personal journey. In your sessions you process presenting issues with your counsellor based on a therapeutic relationship – you elaborate on daily life situations in which you are struggling, you discuss, ask questions, express your feelings and much more. Most clients have regular sessions on either a weekly or fortnightly basis, others come once a month – based on the client’s needs.
What actually happens between those sessions? What to do when you are feeling down or get overwhelmed and you struggle to bridge the time to your next counselling session? These are very common questions. The time between counselling sessions can be used in different ways, here are some suggestions:
Reflect on your session
After each session, take some time to actively think about what happened during the interaction with your counsellor. What did you get out of the session? What have you learned and how can you implement it in your daily life? By paying close attention to how you feel and what you think after your sessions you will be able to make constructive changes in your daily life.
Take some time to read
In case you enjoy reading and wish to gain deeper insights into your presenting issues, ask your counsellor for some reading suggestions. Reading books cannot replace your sessions, it might, however, bring further knowledge and different perspectives. Also, you might feel that you are not alone with your issue(s).
Practice awareness in your daily life
Based on our past experiences we often develop patterns which impact on our behaviour and decision-making in our daily life – we are functioning on autopilot. Try as much as possible to turn it off by questioning your patterns. Are they healthy and productive? Paying close attention and deciding to act differently in certain situations make you gain more control of your life.
Write a journal
Especially when struggling to cope with anxiety, depression and managing stress, journaling can be beneficial. If you are not familiar with journal writing, ask your counsellor for instructions and guidance – some counsellors might ask you to journal as a regular homework. Make some time to jot down your thoughts related to your experiences, struggles and concerns, and questions you might have. Don’t forget about positive things and those you are grateful for at the end of the day – this is called gratitude journaling. Note the impact on your well-being after a while.
By the way, the journal must not be a classical notebook, you can also have it on your phone for example.
Practice new coping strategies
In order to change your situation and eventually reach your goals, you will have to implement what you learn in your sessions in daily life. Once you are aware of unhealthy or dysfunctional coping strategies, replace them actively by different, more healthy ones. This can be as simple as going for a run instead of smoking a cigarette to release stress after work – it always depends on your goals and individual situation.
Find additional support
Remember that you are not alone with your issue(s). If apart from the counselling sessions, you wish to talk, use your support system and reach out – family members and friends make good listeners, too. Also, there are different kinds of communities for many issues, it might be interesting to explore whether one of those could offer additional support for you as well.
Most important: Don’t stress yourself and take your time
Remember, this is a journey. You might feel overwhelmed at times and struggle to imagine your life to be any different in the future – that’s okay. Your counsellor will support you to process your feelings and struggles and adjust the pace of the sessions to your unique capabilities and needs. Good things take time.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Franziska Richter is a transcultural counsellor with Willingness Team, offering counselling sessions to individuals and couples. She is particularly interested in trauma, addictions, migration, sexuality, and eating disorders.