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Why are pre-therapy assessments so important?

Before commencing a programme of therapy, it is important to establish a number of things before the final decision is made to go ahead.

At Be Yourself Counselling I believe in offering a 30 minute assessment session to go over some vital information before expecting a potential client to make the commitment.

This assessment will give me the chance to show the client that I am, indeed, qualified, registered to a recognised body and fully insured and DBS checked. This is basic information but it shows that I am prepared to be open and honest right from the beginning which, hopefully, allows the client to trust me more readily.

The client can get a 'feel' for the sort of person I am and whether they think we are likely to be able to work together. They can also give a very brief overview of why it is they are seeking counselling. They will not be invited to go into any depth about their issues as this is NOT a regular counselling session. I would not allow the client to let themselves become vulnerable without the time to return them to safety. That would not be ethical.

When this has all been done then I am in a far better position to gauge whether I think that therapy is likely to be of benefit to the client and, more importantly, whether my particular form of therapy is going to be the most effective.

I do not charge for this assessment. In my opinion it is unfair to charge a person if it transpires that therapy is not appropriate at this time. It seems more ethical to me to only ask the client to pay when the therapy has actually started.

The assessment will also be an opportunity to explain how therapy works and what sort of journey this may be for the client. Many people experience things seeming to 'get worse before they get better' as they go though the process of examining the difficult areas of their lives. It doesn't happen all the time but people need to be prepared for this possibility.

Something else I am also strict on in respect to my ethical practice is that I will not schedule a first counselling session with the client during this preliminary meeting, no matter how successful the assessment has been.

Oftentimes a client can experience a form of 'raised mood' during the 30 minute appointment. They may feel a little more optimistic about their future due to the fact they are taking action. They have made contact with a therapist and the therapist now sits in front of them and explains how therapy can improve a person's life. Maybe they start to see a little chink of light that wasn't there before. This positive energy can be very powerful and the urge to make that first appointment can be quite strong. However, I believe that a client needs a 'cooling off period' to consider everything that has been talked about. Are they truly ready for this? Is it the best time to start? Can they afford it? Are they honestly ok with having to delve into certain areas of their life?

Only when they have considered all of these things, and more, should they then pick up the phone to make the appointment. It could be one of the biggest decisions they ever make so they need to be totally sure.

I believe that by following this protocol, whenever I find myself sitting with a new client, ready to start therapy together, we both have the most confidence in each other to achieve a successful result.

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