Posted on Wednesday, 25th July 2018
If you’ve never had counselling before, the thought of the first session can be daunting and anxiety provoking. You might not know what to expect or what is expected of you. Each counsellor’s process for the first session may differ a little but I thought it might be helpful to share mine. Hopefully this will be useful for anyone feeling apprehensive about counselling.
Ahead of meeting we will have had some contact, be it over email, telephone or both. I do try and speak to every new client on the phone before meeting. This allows us to talk a little before meeting, for you tell me a little about what’s bringing you to counselling and for us to discuss the practical aspects such as the session fee, the address of the session, how to access the building (if applicable).
We will arrange to meet at one of my practices, in Clapham or Tooting. This will be based on both of our availability. Where we meet for the first time doesn’t necessarily have to be where we meet for future sessions. What works best for the two of us going forward can be discussed in the session.
The session will be 50 minutes in length. I take responsibility for the timekeeping so you can concentrate on you. I will first give you a contact form to complete. Then I will go through some questions I ask every new client in the initial session. Using an assessment form in the first session is fairly common for counsellors. Over the course of my counselling practice I have learned there are certain topics that come up time and time again and certain things about the client that are useful for me to know. I am person-centred and so predominantly like the client to take the lead and have control in the session about what they discuss. This is one of the only times I am more directive.
After these questions I will then invite you to talk about whatever you like. Over the remaining length of the session I listen, asking questions when appropriate, while you talk about whatever you like. This may be one topic that is on your mind and feeling particularly important at the time. It may be explaining a series of events which have lead to you coming to counselling at this time. Often clients say they come not knowing what they’re going to talk about and then before they know it the 50 minutes is up.
Towards the end of the session we will discuss continuing to work together. Sometimes clients like to leave the session and think about it. If we do decide to work together we then discuss a day and time we can meet weekly. With most of my clients I see them on the same day at the same time once a week. For some people this is not always possible and we discuss ways around this and other options.
One of the most important aspects of the first session is ascertaining whether a good therapeutic relationship between myself and the client can be formed. Research shows that the therapeutic relationship is one of the most important factors in counselling.
Am I someone you feel able to open up to? Do you feel supported and listened to without judgement? There is nothing wrong with deciding after the first session that you may find a better fit with a different counsellor.
I hope this was useful. If you have any more questions or would like to discuss arranging a first session, do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.