Wondering what happens in your first counselling session? Let me guess…
...you’re reading this because a) you have your first counselling session booked and don’t know what to expect. Or… b) you’re feeling less than great about something in your life and you’re too-ing and fro-ing about taking the first step to a better life but FEAR is holding you back.
The thought of coming to counselling for the first time is strange – it’s not like when you go to the supermarket you know you’re going to buy groceries or when you pay to see a movie you know you’ll watch a movie. Counselling seems foreign and to some, even scary. Like how could being vulnerable possibly help me? How could something that seems so ‘vague’ help me? Why would I go and tell a stranger about my problems? Let me assure you that if you feel this way or ask yourself these questions, you are NOT alone.
The next five minutes of reading will almost certainly put your mind at ease, or at least educate you if nothing else. I promise. It will take away the fear of the unknown. After all, everyone knows FEAR can be paralysing.
So I want to start by saying that this information specifically relates to sessions with She Counselling. What others do and don’t do isn’t necessarily what I choose to do. I like to add my own personal touches to make the session warm and relaxing. That said, there are many similarities between therapists because ultimately we all operate within professional codes of conduct which state we must do certain things.
Ok, here we go, what happens in your first counselling session...
As you arrive we’ll do a meet and greet and all the usual welcoming chit chat. We’ll help you settle in with a cozy blanket and a glass of water, only if you want them of course! As well as nice bright natural light, there’ll be soft lighting and candles to create a warm and encouraging space. There’s no ‘therapist couch’ for you to lay on (hello ridiculous myth!) … we both sit in the same type of seating so that we are equals on your journey of self-discovery.
To start with we’ll complete an intake form where we’ll gather personal details including your contacts, mental health history, family situation, any medications you’re on and any concerns you have that we need to know about. After that, we’ll also ask you three short questions about YOURSELF to get you engaged and ready to talk through your challenges.
Following on from this, we’ll move onto one of the most important steps in the intake session which is to ascertain what "your “WHY” is. So that means… why are you here, why are things so challenging for you right now, why do you want your life to improve, why is today the day. It’s basically what we do to work out what you need from us and what you want to achieve in your sessions. Without this clarity there are no goal posts to aim for. What we are looking for here is a few key areas of work that we will focus on. For example “Self-esteem” or “Anxiety” or “Stress”.
Up next is the Counselling Agreement which we go over so everyone knows where they stand in terms of privacy, confidentiality and company policies. We each sign this document and get a copy to keep.
What comes next is...
...outcome monitoring where we look at a series of questions to help track progress made in your sessions. You’ll assign a 0-10 response to questions relating to things like your overall feelings of psychological health, feelings of being able to cope with your challenges and also your motivation for change (where relevant). These questions will be revisited at the middle and also at the end of your counselling journey to track progress you’ve made over the course of your sessions with She.
Then we’ll complete a family tree, again, where relevant. We include partner, children, parents, siblings, aunties and uncles and grandparents. This helps to create more of a picture of exactly where you come from, what your background is and where you sit in the family. Later on it can also help to work out where certain behaviours, beliefs and expectations have possibly come from. Of course it also helps us remember who people are when you’re talking about them!
One, a Q&A session where you can ask anything! This might include questions about your therapist (qualifications, style of working etc) or it might be something about the counselling process itself. In the past people have asked about how many sessions they’ll need… that is definitely a conversation we can have.
And two, we’ll have a quick chat about privacy because we live in a small town and it’s inevitable that at some stage we will run into each other in the community. No client wants to be embarrassed if they’re out shopping and their family member says “Where do you know that lady from?”. That’s not to say having therapy is anything to feel embarrassed about it’s more just to avoid any uncomfortable conversations in the public arena.
Ok, that’s it! After the ‘fomalities’ (which by the way are not “formal” but quite laid back!) we will get going. You can start wherever you like with your story, wherever feels comfortable for you. Anything you say is confidential (within the limits of the law) so you can feel free to say exactly what it is you need to. You can be honest without the fear of being judged, criticised or invalidated.
You can be assured nothing, and I mean NOTHING is too “weird”, “gross”, “horrible” “bad” or “embarrassing” for you to share. If you imagine your doctor saying “You’re not the first and you won’t be the last”… likewise for counselling... your therapist has probably heard it all before so there’ll be no ‘shock’ for you to deal with when telling your story.
I hope this answers your "what happens in your first counselling session?" question. Of course, if you have any other questions or any concerns please reach out me! I’m only too happy to help. And, if you have a first session coming up and you're feeling anxious about it you may like to check out my articles Living with anxiety... coping strategies to help you thrive or 15 ways to improve your sleep tonight!
Finally, if you know someone who would benefit from this information, you can share it using the links below. Sharing helps more people find She Counselling and therefore allows more people to IMPROVE their life! x
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Erica has a passion for Women’s Health. She works with women who want to be heard, supported and empowered! Erica is a survivor of many life experiences. A Mum. A travel lover. A green thumb in training and an eternal optimist!