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How to approach the first contact with a helping professional?

Enlisting the help of a mental health professional can seem like a mysterious undertaking. Let us assist you in demystifying this important step. Here’s how to approach it with confidence.

Most individuals who decide to reach out to a counsellor experience a certain apprehension when dialling the phone number for the first time or sending the first email: fear of the unknown, doubts about the effectiveness of this endeavour, concern about receiving a response or not, fear of being awkward when expressing yourself or failing to clearly communicate your needs. In short, there are many possible doubts and fears. Am I really ready? Do I really need this? And lurking behind all this is a desire, a hope. What if this actually could help me? What if it makes me feel better? How can such a seemingly simple first call cause so many emotions?

In the end, everyone finds their own answer to this question. After all, the way we react depends on our history, our past or current experiences, and our personality. That being said, something important happens during the first contact, something that may partly explain all the emotions it can cause.

Beyond the aspects that are personal to each of us, every first contact has one thing in common: it is the first concrete expression of your commitment to change. Before making the call, your commitment wasn’t fully formed. It wasn’t marked in your calendar as a therapy appointment. Now that you’ve made an appointment, another person is involved in your progress and is turning an abstract desire into something real. This person expects something from you, just like you expect something from them.

Naturally, your counsellor expects you to show up for the scheduled appointment. They expect you to explain, however briefly, why you’ve decided to seek counselling and to talk about your concerns, within your comfort level and at your own pace.

And you expect them to listen to you, help you and respect you. You might expect them to heal you, change your life, repair the things in you that feel broken. Some of these expectations will be met, others won’t and that’s completely normal. That’s how relationships work.

Ultimately, this is what it’s all about. This is what this first contact represents: the beginning of a new relationship, with all the fears and hopes that new relationships entail. Experiencing these emotions and asking yourself these questions is normal. Remember that you took an important step by choosing to start this process. Be open and honest during the first contact, because that’s how you’ll build a trusting relationship with your counsellor.

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