Confidentiality is an essential part of counselling. Psychologists are legally and ethically obligated to keep your identity and issues private. If you request me to consult with someone else, such as your family doctor, I will need to obtain your signed written consent prior to discussing your situation with your doctor.
There are three exceptions to the confidentiality of counselling with a psychologist. The first is if you are at risk for hurting yourself or another person. The second is if you are describing situations in which a child is at risk for abuse. The third is if a court of law orders release of your file information. These are rarely occurring occurrences.
At such times as you report that you are at risk for harming yourself or others, it is my practice to assess you for the severity of your state and inform you of the actions I am obligated to take. In such a difficult situation it can be a relief for you to have the help and I hope to gain your agreement and consent to minimize the safety risk for you and others. However, if you do not agree, I will go ahead and contact other professionals such as medical doctors, your lawyer if you have one or the authorities to protect you and others.
I acknowledge that making an appointment for counselling is a courageous first step in your life and can be stressful. To be as relaxed as possible in your appointment, wear comfortable clothes and bring a water bottle with water to drink during the session. It may be helpful to plan a fun activity for right after the session and avoid stressful activities, including work, for an hour or two after to assist you in processing what has happened in the session.
Many people feel better after the first session and this is reasonable to anticipate. In order to continue feeling better and have the changes are more sustainable, further sessions are advised until you and your counsellor agree that you have achieved your goals. Subsequent sessions will be at a pace that suits you, leads you toward resolution of the difficulties and has you moving forward in your life.
For the first couple session, you will each be given the opportunity to talk about how you see your relationship strengths and weaknesses and to listen to your partner’s view. You will be given equal time as much as possible to share your concerns through a series of questions such as what would you like to get out of counselling, what was the catalyst for scheduling the session at this time, how did you meet and what happens when you have a disagreement.
The first session of couple counselling goes by quickly and by the end of the hour it is intended that you feel comfortable with the process and Patricia as your therapist, as well as have a beginning understanding of your part in the pattern of difficulty, conflict or disagreements that you wish to change for the better. Couples report that they often feel better after the first session , but recognize further sessions are necessary and desired to make lasting change. Depending upon the duration and severity of the pattern of disconnection, ten sessions is recommended to start.