It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous about going for counselling, especially because we may not know what to expect. Making the decision to see a therapist or counsellor can feel like a scary step to take, but it doesn’t have to be.
We speak to Sophia Goh, a professional counsellor and psychotherapist, on what you need to know about going for counselling in Singapore.
You don’t need to have a ‘serious problem’ before seeing a counsellor.
There are many reasons why we may choose to see a mental health expert. It could be because we want to know how to better deal with our stress or perhaps learning better ways to manage our relationships. Speaking to a psychologist or counsellor is one way to overcome any mental hurdles you’re facing.
“There are a few warning signs that are a strong indicator that you should seek professional help,” Sophia says. “This includes:
- A serious drop in school or work performance
- Sudden personality changes that are unexplained
- Being overly suspicious or fearful
- Thoughts of self-harm or harming others
- Hearing voices or seeing things that no one else does.”
Seeing a mental health expert can address these mental health issues before they worsen into something more severe.
Don’t be nervous about your first session.
From the TV shows and movies we’ve watched, we may have a mental image of lying down on a couch, baring our soul to our therapist or counsellor. It may feel intimidating to open up to a stranger so intimately the first time you meet. Don’t worry – your first session doesn’t have to go that way.
“The first few sessions are mostly to get to know you better,” Sophia clarifies. “For example, I’d want to know more about a client’s life history, the significant influences in their lives, as well as understand their present concerns.”
What’s important is to move at a pace that you’re comfortable at. The session is a judgement-free zone. You should feel at ease to share whatever is on your mind, even if it may not feel like a serious issue.
“Additionally, a useful question to ask in your first session is, ‘How do you see us working together?’” Sophia shares. “You should discuss the frequency of the sessions, your availability for them, as well as the general approach to how you and your mental health expert want to structure the sessions.”
“You don’t have to completely understand what Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is. However, it’d be helpful to understand your therapist’s approach and see if it makes sense to you.”
The right counsellor or therapist can improve your mental health tremendously.
“Research has shown that the quality of relationship, also known as therapeutic alliance, between the client and the therapist is one of the most important factors in improving outcomes of therapy,” Sophia shares. This means that it’s important to find a counsellor or therapist that you’re able to connect and work with.
“Just like finding a partner, it might take time to find someone who is the right fit for you,” Sophia adds. “You should be able to trust your therapist or counsellor and talk openly with them about the problems you’re facing.”
If you think a loved one should seek professional help, go slow to encourage them.
It can be a large step to admitting that one needs to seek professional help, especially if your loved one is still struggling with acknowledging their feelings. As such, do not be confrontational when you broach the subject.
“Avoid bringing the topic up at a family gathering or special events,” cautions Sophia, as it could feel like you are cornering your loved one. “Instead, find a special time between the two of you to talk about it. Make sure the session is private and ask that they try to keep an open mind during the conversation.”
“Don’t rush it,” Sophia advises. “Set the groundwork with them by sharing more about what therapy is and what the process is like. Rather than lecture them, you should listen openly to their thoughts. Assure them that you will still be there, if they would like to reach out to you for help.”
Just like how we see a doctor for physical ailments, we should embrace the idea of seeing a mental health expert if we need mental health support. For example, if we need help dealing with burnout or struggling with work-life balance.
If you need to speak to a psychotherapist or counsellor in Singapore, you can do so discreetly over the Doctor Anywhere app. Our team of mental health experts are ready to help you through the challenges you’re facing.
In collaboration with Sophia Goh
Sophia is a professional counsellor and psychotherapist based in Singapore. Her mission is to help individuals lead successful, fulfilling and well-meaningful lives. She believes in the inherent strengths and resilience in her clients to overcome their challenges. Sophia has done counselling work with youths on academic stress, study motivation and delinquency behaviours. She has also facilitated group counselling sessions in personal development, social skills and coping with life transitions. Her clients describe her as a warm and supportive counsellor who is empathetic and non-judgmental.
You can book a mental health consultation with Sophia on the DA app.