Rarely is the bud more tightly packed than for a person beginning their counselling journey. I’m always honoured when a person approaches me with a view to counselling. What they seem to be saying is, “I can no longer live this life in this way. I want to find an alternative way of being and I’d like you to help me find that new way of being.”
It’s easy to be carried away with this honour, and I must always remember that the first steps are always the hardest. When I was a child I could never just jump straight into a swimming pool. I was a little frightened of the water and felt the cold acutely. I would stand by the side for minutes, not even daring to put my foot to the water, hugging my skinny goose-bumped body, teeth chattering. It didn’t matter that others would try to encourage me by telling me how quickly I would warm up once I was in. I knew this to be the case from previous visits to the swimming baths. That wasn’t the point. Although they had my best interests at heart they were not feeling my fear of the initial shock of entering the water.
Eventually I would dip a toe in and then recoil from the cold water touching my skin. After a while the cold air would get to me, and I’d see other children in the water, some of whom had arrived after me, and who were now enjoying their play. My desire to stop being miserable at the side would finally take me to the water again and eventually, perhaps after two or three attempts, I would tentatively immerse myself.
Counselling is very similar. Just deciding to try it is often a massive step for a person, and the initial counselling session is an unusual and scary experience for someone. As the session proceeds it dawns upon a person just what they might be embarking upon. The realisation that he or she is initiating something that may challenge years of carefully constructed and maintained beliefs may be overwhelming and it is not unusual for the person to recoil and take a little more time to build up the courage to try again at a future time.
Perhaps it will take two or three one-off meetings with different counsellors before a person is willing to risk themselves over several sessions. Each of those meetings is a step along a journey and I’m never disappointed if I only meet somebody for one of those solitary sessions. It’s just as much an honour to be part of the journey even if it’s for only an hour. I know that I’ve hopefully played a crucial part as someone takes the risk to blossom.