There are separate door bells to each consulting room, with a panel showing you which room I will be working from on that day. Simply ring the bell next to my name, and I will buzz you in.
Please be aware that if you ring the bell a little too early, you may be disturbing the session immediately before yours. Thus, it is best not to arrive until a few minutes before your session begins.
I will probably invite you straight to the room; however, if I am not quite ready I may ask you to wait for a few moments. At Snow Hill and in Paris, the waiting area is immediately inside the front door, and at Wimpole Street it is on the first floor.
Many people find the idea of coming to therapy or counselling a daunting proposition. Not only might they be opening themselves up for the very first time, they’ll be opening up to a complete stranger.
Once they’ve taken the first tentative step, people often discover that the knowledge that the therapist is in fact a complete stranger, has a liberating effect—knowing that what goes on during a session will remain always between you and your therapist, so that there is no chance of anyone in your everyday life hearing anything about it.
Indeed, complete confidence and trust is essential to the very process of therapy, and is a principle to which our therapists are ethically and professionally bound.
The very first session is more of a consultation, to help you decide if therapy could be helpful for you and, more importantly, if I am someone you can work with.
The first session does not commit you to continuing in therapy me. There are many other therapists whose style and experience might be better suited to you, so you can decide if you are going to feel comfortable, confident, and motivated to work with me.
Of course, it is a two-way process, and a time also for me to decide whether I am a good match for you. Occasionally, I might recommend another therapist who I think might better suit your needs.
The assessment process, which begins during the first session, is the process through which you and I can begin to form a collaborative strategy for you to reach your goals in therapy – a strategy that we both agree is realistic and achievable.
Setting goals for therapy is important. I am likely to ask you a lot of questions during the first session – about what you want to get out of therapy, about the particular concerns you want to deal with, about how you would like your life to be once you achieve what you set out to in therapy – along with many others. Equally, I will want to hear about aspects of your life that are going well for you, and to identify the abilities and strengths that have given you the resilience to carry on although it may have been very hard at times.
Soon, we will both share a common understanding of your current difficulties, and both have a clear idea of where therapy should be heading. That, combined with a reliable appraisal of the propensities that will help you achieve your goals in therapy, will allow you to embark on the process of therapy itself with a sense of clarity and direction.
It is important to understand that therapy always has an ending in mind, even as it starts out. I do not think people should be expected to enter into an open-ended arrangement, where sessions meander towards no particular goal. Rather that it should be somewhat time-limited, although not rushed, and focused on a clear outcome.
Whether ‘time-limited’ means six weeks or six months clearly depends on the particular set of difficulties you’re facing, but you certainly are not entering into an open-ended long term contract.
That said, an ending does not have to be absolute and it can be reassuring to know that you can always come back to see me for an occasional progress review, or when you feel you need a boost after a particular set-back. You can even come back for another short course of therapy to help consolidate a new positive perspective or commitment.