Welcome To My (Counselling) World

Despite working as a counsellor for the past 20+ years, and feeing comfortable in the counselling environment (both as a therapist and client) I strongly believe that counselling is a big deal especially if you’re new to it. I also believe that information helps to dispel fear.

When I re-launched my website just over a year ago, one of my favourite new additions was the virtual tour. If you haven’t seen it and want to check out my office, please take a look! It’s pretty much exactly as you see it, one year later, except that I’ve changed around some of the pictures on my walls.

Yet, upon reflection, I felt like the virtual tour didn’t go quite far enough, so today I want to dig deep about what you’ll find if you come in for a 15-minute consultation or are about to start counselling with me.

Counsellors vary in terms of their office set-up and environment; this article is particular to the space at Willow Tree Counselling. This post also hints at counselling clients’ rights and therapist values: while both are extremely important, they are not the focus here.

And for those of you who are familiar with my articles, you know that I often like to issue caveats; my warning for this one is that I’m talking office minutiae here, which for some of you may just be a little too much. I have always been a details person 🙂


The Waiting Room

When you get to my office suite (915), you’ll walk right into a shared waiting room. It’s often relatively empty but at peak times (usually late afternoon), there may be another person or two there.

You Have The Right To…

  • Sit or stand. Most folks choose to sit down, but if you prefer to stand, please do what’s comfortable for you!
  • Wait in the hallway outside if you prefer (just message me to let me know you’re there)
  • Have a drink of water. While I will always offer you water, tea or coffee in my office, please don’t suffer if you are thirsty! There is a kitchenette attached to the waiting room with a sink and drinking glasses.

The Wet Umbrella

Wet umbrellas can feel awkward. Most people don’t know what to do with them: carry them in wet, leave it outside the office? Put it on my rug? Lean against the couch?

You Have The Right To…

Use my umbrella stand which is just inside my main office door. It looks like a bed of wheatgrass (long story), but yes, it’s for umbrellas. You’ll pass by it right on your way out of my office, after your appointment so you won’t forget it.

The Welcome Mat

It’s a little cliche, but yes, I do have a welcome mat with a willow tree on it. Some polite folks think that it’s code for “take off your shoes.” It’s actually there just so you have the option of wiping your shoes, if you so wish. My office gets cleaned regularly so I don’t worry either way.

Jackets and Coats

Your comfort is what’s most important! Many people like to take their coat off for their appointment, others like to keep it on. No worries.

You Have The Right To…

  • Hang it on my handy coat rack (I am happy to hang it or you can self-serve)
  • Keep it on and it not be awkward
  • Throw it on the couch beside you
  • Get up mid-session and put it back on

Getting Comfortable

Where to Sit

It’s common for first-time clients to politely ask me where to sit. The short answer is, wherever you’re comfortable. There are two options in my office: an armchair or couch. I have a few therapy supplies nearer the armchair, but I’m completely flexible about where I sit. I am happy to say “excuse me,” if I need to reach for something 🙂

You Have The Right To…

  • Choose the couch or chair.
  • Change where you sit, either in the appointment or from appointment to appointment
  • Take off your shoes or keep them on
  • Stretch out on the couch

Something to Drink

Sometimes we’re thirsty, sometimes not, or sometimes a hot or cold drink is just comforting. My clients know that I have an extensive tea menu and that I love serving tea. People sometimes don’t realize, though, that it just takes me about 30 seconds to make as I always have hot water ready. It is never a bother to make a hot beverage.

You Have The Right To…

  • Accept or decline a hot or cold beverage and for it never to be awkward
  • Drink none, as little or as much of it and not feel guilty
  • Ask for a different tea if you don’t like the one you’ve chosen
  • Ask for a refill at any time
  • Allow me to serve you or alternatively, serve yourself, if the former is uncomfortable for you
  • Bring your own tea/water/coffee
  • Make a beverage suggestion to me
  • Eat a snack in my office
  • Stash your favourite tea in my office for future appointments

Bothered by Light? Want More Light?

I am in a windowed office that gets some direct sun in the morning and afternoon (often from reflections off of neighbouring buildings). For some folks this is uplifting and for others it’s too bright. I also use lamps to bring extra warmth and coziness to the counselling room.

You Have The Right To…

  • Ask me to close or partly close, or re-open 1, 2 or 3 of my blinds
  • Ask me to turn off any of the lamps
  • Let me know if you have a headache or migraine and need to minimize light

Too Hot or Too Cold?

Feeling comfortably alert is important in a counselling session. Feeling too cold makes it impossible to relax while being too hot can make us feel sleepy.

You Have The Right To…

Ask me to turn on the fan or space heater and ask for it to be turned off again, should you wish
Ask for a blanket – I have a cozy throw handy
Leave your jacket on if you prefer

Dry Hands

Sometimes when we slow down and sit, we realize that our hands are dry, especially in the Winter months. Never fear, lotion is here. Please ask if you need some. Some folks like to use it too, as a gesture of self-care.


Any counsellor goes through a lot of tissues. Take as many as you need. It is never a problem. I buy in bulk.

Fidgety Hands

While I hope all counselling clients feel as comfortable as possible with me, sometimes that’s made even easier with something to hold. You may come with your own item that you would like to fidget with. That’s cool. And for those who don’t, I do have a squishy starfruit that feels good in the hands.

You Have The Right To…

  • Bring sometime to fidget with
  • Use my fidget toy
  • Fidget as much or as little in the session without me questioning you to “reading into” it


Many of you ask about Herbert, my office stuffy. A non-binary “forrest dweller” he brings a smile to most people’s faces, including mine. And yes, they are available to hold, floof or hug anytime.


Counselling clients’ therapy experiences can often be enhanced by having supportive supplies.

Notes / Pen

Many times in my counselling career clients have sat in silence, wishing they had brought a pen and paper. I often don’t learn about this until the end of the session. Some folks over the years have the idea to put a note in their phone but worry it’s too rude. Please don’t worry.

You Have The Right To…

  • Ask me for a pen and paper any time. (I have a stiff notebook so you can write on your lap and that has perforated pages so you can easily remove them when you leave your counselling appointment)
  • Take out your phone and take notes – I am always jazzed when clients do this, as it’s a sign of engagement and initiative in the counselling process


I sometimes use my handheld whiteboard to draw diagrams and illustrate points. Some folks even find it useful for us to draw up an agenda for the session, to help establish or maintain focus or to pace the session appropriately

You Have the Right to:

Ask for you or me or us to use the whiteboard at any time, either at the start of the session, mid-session or repeatedly over sessions.

Charging Devices

Have a charger with you and want to charge your device during your session? I get it! No sense being low on battery when it could be charging for the next hour. I purposely keep my desk clear of confidential information so clients can safely set their device on my desk and plug in their charger in the neighbouring wall outlet. No need to use the floor.

You Have The Right To…

  • Head over to my charging area and plug in straight away
  • Use my office iPhone, iPad or MacBook Pro chargers (just ask!)


Have a therapy worksheet or a small print job related to one of your therapy goals? While I have a wired printer (to avoid confidentiality breeches that could happen by selecting the wrong printer), let me know if I can help you print it out!

WiFi password

Just ask me if you need to access the wifi for the office.

Comments, Complements and Critiques

Your Valuable Feedback

It is never rude to give me feedback at any time in your counselling session. In fact, I encourage it. This can include anything you would have liked to see different in the session, anything you did not find helpful, suggestions, and any positive aspects of the session that you found particularly helpful. There are several ways of doing this: by completing the session feedback questionnaire given after each session, telling me directly, or sending me an email. It’s also never a problem to schedule a phone call in between sessions. I always want clients to have the best therapy experience possible.