• Therapy typically takes place on the same day, at the same time each week, without contact in-between sessions

  • Therapist Georgina Sturmer explains this important boundary and what you can do if you find it difficult

You’ve built up a sense of trust with your counsellor. Each session, you open up and share your thoughts and feelings. However, between sessions, your contact is generally limited to practical things like timings and cancellations. It can feel as if you’re being kept at arm's length. 

Let’s take a look at why you might want to reach out to your counsellor, and what you can do if you’re finding things difficult:

1. 'My mind keeps returning to things we’ve discussed, and I’m struggling to wait until our next session'

Often in counselling we’re sharing feelings that we haven’t voiced before. This can be a huge relief. But it can also feel as if we’ve opened a jar and the contents are continually swirling around us. 

What can you do?

  • Acknowledge and accept that sometimes thoughts and feelings might emerge between sessions. Be curious. Notice what triggers this, and how it makes you feel. 
  • Notice how you respond to the ‘boundary’ between you and your counsellor. Do you feel compliant, and pleased to have structure in place? Or do you feel irritated and rebellious? What does this tell you about how you interact with others? 
  • Establish coping strategies. There might be an activity that helps you to process your thoughts, such as journaling or talking to someone. Or it might be around finding ways to calm your mind or, such as breathing exercises or mindfulness.  

2. 'During the week there’s so much I want to say but when it’s time for my session I just draw a blank'  

Maybe you feel uncomfortable voicing things out loud, or broaching a specific topic. Perhaps you’re concerned about what your counsellor might think, or whether you’ll become overwhelmed. 

What can you do?

  • Remember that you can go at your own pace in your counselling sessions. You are not obliged to share details that you don’t want to share. Your counsellor can work with you to support you to explore your feelings without requiring you to go into detail about your experiences. 
  • Consider finding your own way to record how you feel between sessions. You might keep a journal or write a letter. Or perhaps you draw, or capture photos or sounds. You could speak to your counsellor about bringing your work to your sessions. 
  • Think about how you describe your emotions. This can be a real challenge. Sometimes we just don’t have the words to articulate how we feel. You can find a ‘feelings wheel’ online, and this can be a helpful guide to all different kinds of feelings. But it’s also worth thinking creatively. Maybe you sense your feelings in different parts of your body at different times. Or you identify colours or smells that you link with certain sensations. If your counsellor asks how you’re feeling, perhaps your answer is more easily described as a colour or as a smell. Or even an animal, a food, a holiday destination or a type of weather. I know that sometimes I feel like I’m relaxing on a beautiful beach. And sometimes I feel like I’m soaked to the skin on a grey rainy day. 

3. 'I’ve got some news to share, and I am sure that my counsellor will be pleased to hear it'

I’ve definitely been here! It’s lovely to be able to share positive news. But I came to understand that I wanted to share my news with my counsellor because I was seeking their approval and praise. 

What can you do?

  • By all means, share your stories and successes with your counsellor in your next session. But while you’re waiting, be aware of the motivation behind this. If you want them to feel pleased for you, or proud for you – then what would it be like for you to feel pleased with yourself, or proud of yourself?
  • Remember to share the other stuff too. Your counsellor is there for all parts of you. Even the parts that you might rather suppress. The failures, the disappointments, the rejections, the anger, the sadness, the jealousy. 

4. 'I think that I am at crisis point with my mental health'

This is really important. Counsellors can help you and support you during difficult times. However, even if they work within a primary care setting, they are generally not a crisis service. 

If you feel that you are in crisis, make sure that you know where to turn.

What can you do?

  • Call 999 for emergency support
  • Contact your GP or 111
  • Reach out to listening services, staffed 24/7 by trained volunteers. 
  • SHOUT text service (text SHOUT to 85258)
  • Samaritans phone service (call 116 123)
  • Samaritans email service ([email protected])

Georgina Sturmer is a verified Welldoing therapist in Hertfordshire and online

Further reading

Deciding on therapy: a leap of faith?

Which type of therapy is right for me?

Is group therapy more relevant than ever before?

What is integrative therapy?