Welcome to this second instalment of working through your first counselling session. In this post, I will talk about what the counsellor will say to you and some questions they might ask you in the first session.
This is by no means a one-sided conversation, you should be able to ask any questions you have about counselling, the contract and anything else that might come up for you either before booking or during the first session itself.
There are two very important things to take into account when finding the right counsellor for yourself.
Firstly, you have to be comfortable with the person you will be working with. Some counsellors will call the first session an assessment session. I opt to take the first session as just that – the first session – but I am also conscious that I might not be the right counsellor for a client or they might not be the right client for me (I have to be honest with myself and you about the limits of my practice, otherwise I might do more harm than good, and that would be counterproductive for both of us). Take the initial session as an assessment of whether you can work together or whether you keep searching elsewhere. Maybe even ask the counsellor for other names you can consider. Don’t worry, we are used to these things and won’t feel bad or look at you in any negative light if you choose someone else or ask for referrals!
Second, you will most likely be nervous. You are meeting a new person after all, and you know that the things you will be talking about with them are not going to be easy. Just remember, the therapist is probably as nervous as you are – they are also meeting you for the first time!
Your therapist will not have any expectations for you to perform in any way. Especially if you haven’t been to counselling before, it will take a few sessions to get used to the dynamics and the way your counsellor works with you. Take your time and feel free to ask questions about the process. The counsellor will explain how they work – their main modality, their role in this relationship (in brief, to help you understand what is going on for you, and how to move forward using your already existent inner strengths and resources).
The counsellor will need to know a lot about you in order to help you, so speaking freely without censorship is the best way to help them and to help yourself. Having said that, nobody will rush you or push you into talking about anything you are not yet ready to discuss. The space is a safe space to talk and process your issues – at your pace! It is your session and your process, you can decide what is ok and what is too much. Your counsellor might point out how difficult things are and that you might want to get back to that at a later point. We can’t collude with not talking about what we might already see as the key to moving forward for you.
There are other bits that the counsellor might discuss in a first session, like endings, open-ended counselling versus time-limited counselling, and questions related to you directly.
Questions you might be asked
Have you had counselling before?
This question is important because it will give your counsellor a feel of the experience you might have had in the past. Was it a positive one? Was it helpful?
What are your expectations of counselling now?
Following from that previous question, this would be another question that would help the therapist know how to help you better and maybe clear some of the misunderstandings or negative feelings – if any – from your past therapy process(es), as well as explain how similar or different your relationship with them might be.
What brings you to counselling now?
Everything else discussed up to now will have been helpful to ease you into the therapeutic process and allow you and your therapist to get to know each other a bit better, before delving into what brings you to counselling at this point in your life. This is where you can begin to tell your story and start the healing process.
The end of the first session
The end of the first session might be tricky, as you might want to keep on talking or actually want to end the session a bit earlier as it might be too overwhelming. Using all of the time allocated is the best as it will help you build resilience from the start, and will allow you to experience your therapist’s abilities to contain your feelings of uncertainty and overwhelm. It might also give them insight into how you deal with endings, which will be important for each session and down the line when you decide to end the process altogether.
After the session, take time to breathe, and don’t rush into making any decisions from what you discussed. It will take time to work through anything you bring to therapy and the best thing to do is hold on to it, think about it, keep processing in your mind and heart, and discuss it with your therapist on your second session.
I hope this posts have been helpful to you and I wish you the best in your search for the right counsellor for you.
As mentioned before, what I write in these blogs comes from first hand experience of being a counsellor, as well as being a client myself.