What to expect at your first counselling appointment

So you’re considering coming to counselling but you’re kinda nervous about that first appointment…

Will it be awkward? What will they ask me? Will I be judged? Do I need to reveal every deep dark secret the first session? What if I break down and can’t put myself back together? Will the counsellor be able to handle what I have to say?

Coming to your first counselling appointment is full of unknowns. I can’t speak for all counsellors, but I’ll speak to my process to ease some of that first appointment anxiety.

Firstly, it’s my job to help you feel comfortable. From greeting you when you first walk in, to the way the conversation unfolds, to the way the session wraps up- I will be there to guide you through the process.

Prior to the appointment I send the necessary paperwork to be reviewed and filled out.  I find this gives us more time in that first 50 minute session. And don’t worry, if you forget the paperwork I almost always have extra.

At the beginning of the session I like to share a bit about who I am and the way I practice. I also can answer any questions you have about me and the counseling process.

From here we jump right in- wherever you’d like to start. I usually ask a question like “what brings you to counselling at this time?”. It’s through this initial conversation that we begin to define the problem and decide where to start. Some counsellors will do a more formal “assessment” in the first session, but I tend to keep this process pretty more of a flowing conversation.

It’s this beginning point where big emotions might come up for people, especially if you’re sharing for the first time. In the past I’ve had people say to me “I didn’t want to cry”, or “I don’t want to cry”.  Emotions are things us counsellors are very comfortable with, that and, silence.  It’s our job to help you process emotions as well to help you contain them so you aren’t flooded by them. I encourage you to not hold them back and if needed I will take the lead to help you move through so you don’t get stuck in them.

During this whole process you get to be in control of how much you share. If there is ever a point where the conversation is going in a direction that you’re not comfortable with I invite you to share this. And if I at all pick up an uneasiness, I’ll ask or shift the conversation.

Towards the end of the session I usually take the opportunity to summarize the session and we’ll come up with a bit of a plan that makes sense for all of us.

Although the therapeutic conversation and process that we have in session is helpful, I believe that sustainable change is more about integrating change into your life outside of counselling.  Because of this sometimes we’ll discuss something for you to do, notice or experiment with in between sessions.

So there you have it- that’s basically a first session.

If you tend to be the type who’s anxious about first anythings (welcome to the club), I hope this has relieved some of the fears that might be holding you back from getting the support you deserve.