My First Counselling Session: What to Expect

Thinking about seeing a counsellor for the first time? If you know what to expect it helps you to be more at ease and have a better outcome.
During the first session, the therapist will typically want to make an initial assessment of your situation. There is no standard set of questions which are asked. However, typically the areas dealt with include the following:

  • Your reason for choosing to seek therapy
    The Therapist will often be interested whether a specific issue has led you to seek counselling. This will allow them to gain an understanding of the surface or presenting issues.
  • Your Family History and Current Status
    Family and background play an important part in how many of us come to live our lives and in our identity so this often forms an important part of the first meeting.
  • How you are Currently Affected by the Issues
    Often the issues that bring us to therapy affect us across a wide range of areas. The therapist will seek to understand whether there are other symptoms of the issue that brought you in – for example work difficulties. The therapist wants to understand you such that he or she can help you to create solutions to your problems. A therapist will sometimes make diagnosis part of the process, helping to create a path to the resolution of your issues.

The Therapeutic Alliance
Therapy is successful when it is a joint effort. Put simply, you need to participate in order for it to work for you. Coming to therapy is the first step – you now need to continue along the journey. There are some personal pointers to make the first session a success:

  • Openness
    Although therapists are well-practiced in asking the right questions, it can sometimes be difficult or feel awkward to reply. It helps to be as open as you feel comfortable with.
  • State your fears
    If you have any concerns about the counselling process it is very helpful to let the therapist know as they can then answer them for you. The more that you understand the process, the more helpful it tends to be.
  • Feelings and Thoughts
    Although the first session may bring up many difficult or even upsetting thoughts, it is helpful to share your feelings and reactions with the therapist. This helps both therapist and you to progress.

Finally, try to be realistic in your expectations: therapy is rarely a “quick fix” – although this can happen. It is perhaps more helpful to think of it as a “process” through which the therapist will help you to move from difficult or stormy waters into a better place. It is useful to think of the process as effortful but one that, with a strong relationship with the therapist, will help you to resolve your issues.