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Tips on How A First Counselling Session Works

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

If you’re thinking of having counselling and aren’t sure where to begin or you feel a little anxious because you’ve never had counselling before, then keep reading for inside tips on what you can expect in the first session.

Being in the early stages and contemplating whether to take the plunge of meeting with a counsellor for the first time can feel a little daunting or overwhelming. So, I’ve compiled a few common questions which will hopefully help with any anxiety around the idea of making contact.

The list isn’t exhaustive or chronological and ironically that wouldn’t fit with counselling anyway as (you’ll see for yourself in therapy) each session differs moment to moment and week to week.

But just to give an idea in a nutshell as I said a moment ago, keep reading…

Where will the sessions take place?

At this moment in time Zoom sessions are the way forward and I am pleased I can offer this facility as the last thing us counsellors want to do is put our clients (or ourselves) at risk. So, for the foreseeable future, and while I would dearly love to meet with you in person we would be meeting online.

Not familiar with Zoom? Not a problem

Before meeting on Zoom I’d encourage you to familiarize yourself with it if you aren’t already. Maybe have some practise meetings with friends or family. I know it seems that everyone is always Zooming since the first lockdown, but I think that just isn’t always the case. So, if you aren’t already using it here’s a link to check out A little word of warning though, Zoom works much better on a desktop or laptop and good Wi-Fi connection is a must.

The Benefits

You may be wondering what it would be like to have counselling from the comfort of your own home. Well, a great bonus is that there’s no travel involved. No trying to find a parking spot close to my office (although there are actually multiple carparks just a few minutes’ walk away). You could have dinner simmering away on a low heat while you’re in session and you won’t have to worry about toilet facilities or whether you’ll have time to grab a quick bottle of water on route. The benefits to online counselling are endless.

What about Privacy?

It’s natural to be concerned about your privacy as of course. counselling is a very private and personal journey and we don’t necessarily want a third party involved by any means. So, while I can assure you, I have a private and confidential space to work from, it’s equally important you have a great deal of privacy too, making sure you (and I) can’t be overheard. This where investing in a decent headset is worth every penny, but they don’t have to break the bank.

While I adhere to an ethical framework that ensures what gets talked about is kept strictly confidential: there are some exceptions and limitations which I always discuss in the first session.

What to bring to a first session?

Clients often ask if there is anything they need to bring to the sessions. The simple answer I always say to this is “Just yourself”. You may (or may not) want to have a glass of water and some tissues nearby. You know yourself better than I do so you’ll have a better idea of what might be needed. Some clients also worry about what they’ll talk about in the first session. This normal but can be a little anxiety provoking. So to help you understand continue reading……

What to talk about?

So okay, I get that you might be thinking, but what will I talk about. Well, the first session, sometimes called an assessment or initial session is usually a fact-finding session. This is where we do a little research about you from you. I will ask you some personal questions like where you live, who you live with whether you have any illness I need to be aware of (think diabetes or epilepsy) in case of emergency. I will ask if you’ve had any significant life experiences such as loss, bereavement, relationship breakdowns. I’ll also be curious about whether you have had any counselling previously, but since you are here and are curious about what happens in the first session, I’d guess you maybe haven’t. But then, maybe you have and your simply curious about what it’s like to have a first counselling with me. The big question (I guess) I always ask, if you haven’t already volunteered the information is “what brings you to counselling?”

Finding your Voice

This is your opportunity to really voice what is going for you, explore your needs and consider what it is you’d like to achieve from being in therapy. This session is also an opportunity for you to ask me questions and work out whether I meet your expectations as a therapist. This first session is a great place for us to get to know each other a little better. You’ll hopefully come away with a sense of how I work and I’ll hopefully be able to figure out whether I feel my way of working could be a good fit for your needs.

How long is the session?

The therapeutic hour as it’s known is 50 mins long. In my own experience this seems to be a good length of time and knowing there is a time limit can encourage us to talk. I also offer the assessment for up to 50 mins: even though it costs less than an actual counselling session I still like to offer the same amount of time

How many sessions?

There is no definitive answer to this. I could never claim that say, six sessions will be enough or make a claim that you’d need more. Everyone is unique and all our troubles are not the same. Only you will know when you’ve got what you came to therapy for. I can’t tell you when you feel better only you will know. I can’t tell you whether you have resolved the issues that first brought you to my door, again, only you will know. So, with this in mind I offer open-ended therapy which leaves the door open for you to decide the right moves for you. All I ask is a few weeks courteous notice so we can both have appropriate closure to the therapeutic relationship we develop. Otherwise, you are completely free to end the sessions when you feel the time is right.

How you might feel after the first session

As we are all unique individuals there is no straight one-off tick box answer to this. Everyone feels differently. When clients come back after the assessment session, they often reflect on how they felt anxious at the start and by the end, they say felt relaxed and felt they could be open and honest. Some clients’ say they felt relief or lighter. Some clients say they felt calmer and more at peace in having somewhere where they know they can talk about things without feeling judged. Some clients express how they expected to find all the answers and fix their problems in that one session and realised that isn’t how it works. It’s a different experience for different people. Only you will know how it feels for you.

So, hopefully now you have a little nugget of how a first counselling session looks. You’ll know that for the time being most of us counsellors are working online, that the first session is an assessment to see if you and your potential therapist are a good fit and while confidentiality and privacy are fundamental, and you are in control of how many sessions you have.

If you still have any questions are still a little curious or maybe there’s something I haven’t mentioned please feel free to get in touch by email or phone. I hope this has answered some of your questions and helps to banish any overwhelm or anxiety you might have had in your quest for embarking on a therapeutic journey.


Contact me on 07735602788

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