The First Time

Shida was a nervous wreck. She arrived at the therapist’s clinic and made up her mind that she cannot go through this and turned away towards the exit of the therapist’s office.

As she disappeared down the stairs, she heard a warm friendly voice, “Shida, welcome to Wemapsych!” 

The lady calling was dressed in warm colours of orange and brown. Her hair was combed into a well-rounded natural-hair afro. Somehow this display was of comfort to Shida as the lady looked like her late favourite auntie.

As though she could read her mind, the kind lady said, “Please do not go away. We have been expecting you and are looking forward to meeting you.”

Shida was partially won over and she thought that this stranger lady who called her by name might be an angel sent to comfort her against the arduous journey of going for counselling. She had all sorts of fears. Would the counsellor be able to understand her complexities? Might she hear her story over social media and elsewhere? Some of these therapists are usually invited to fora where they give the clients as examples. Might this one be the same? Her story cannot be told, she had decided as she had walked off never to come back.

The kind lady said, “I am Catherine. I am Dr. Saidia’s assistant. Please come in, she will see you shortly”. It was clear Catherine has discerned that Shida was clearly running away and she caught her just in time.

“Would you like some water? The sun has come out today with all its sons. I suspect you have been scorched!”

“I am roasted!” Shida answered with a slight quaver in her voice, the temptation so great to trust this kind lady.

As she sat in a beautiful room, decorated in refreshing orange and black, Shida’s heart was still pounding, when yet another smartly dressed lady, this time is a black suit with a blue blouse, walked in. 

“Hello Shida. It is my pleasure to meet you. My name is Dr. Saidia,” she said in a calming voice as she sat on a chair arranged not to face Shida directly.

Bang! The moment had come when she had to tell her deepest secret. Shida’s palms were sweaty and she had to hold them tightly so that the doctor would not notice.

Dr. Saidia was familiar with this scenario. She knew that this happens a lot when clients come for therapy for the first time.

 Shida’s state is very common. I have encountered it many times. Many therapists will agree that putting a client at ease is critical for therapy to flow. Some people come to therapy for the first time with horror stories of people who have been mishandled by counsellors. Others fear the diagnosis that they may be given thus they are tense. I have experienced clients betrayed hurtfully by confidants who therefore wonder whether the therapist will not betray them too.

When you go to a therapist, expect a warm and compassionate person, who is an expert but who will not Lord it over you. The therapist should make you feel at ease. They will assure you of confidentiality. They cannot share anything you say in therapy unless you indicate an intention to harm yourself or another.

Counsellors only tell your story to third parties, but in the line of duty. We are required to go for supervision from our colleagues either senior to us or otherwise do what is called peer supervision with those at our level. This helps us process any difficulties that we may have with your case and get help on how we should deal with issues. Supervision, however, does not call for the revealing of the client’s identity to the supervisor. The supervisor is also obliged to keep the matter in confidence. In addition, a supervisor helps the therapist to grow in their knowledge and skills.

Therapists’ stance to the client is non-judgemental, accepting the client as a human being who needs support. Added on to the fact that everything is confidential, this fact gives clients a feeling of security to share their story. The therapy hour is ideally a ‘safe place’ for clients to be themselves and share freely. The more they share the more the therapist is able to make a viable treatment plan.

The first session of therapy presents an opportunity for the client to learn all these things about therapy. They also get to learn about the risks and benefits of therapy. The client understands that therapy is traditionally once a week and the fee payable per session. The therapist also explains what happens should there be cancellations and asks any questions he or she may have regarding the therapist and the process.

Upon hearing all this Shida felt quite at ease and was ready to start therapy the next week. Her only question was on the qualifications of the therapist. Dr. Saidia informed her that she was a clinical psychologist trained to deal with issues that take people to therapy, including mental illnesses. She also informed her that when necessary, she collaborates with psychiatrists when there is a need for medication. 

Having listened intently to this information, Saida was satisfied and felt more at ease. Also, since she now had a better understanding of the process, she felt confident to start therapy. The doctor asked her whether that is the kind of process that she would want to go through and she said an enthusiastic yes, all nervousness gone by now. She was requested to sign a form expressing the same in writing. From then on she came for therapy on time and enjoyed it thoroughly. It became the highlight of her week.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

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