In Therapy: Working through your first counselling session (part 1)

In Therapy- Working Through...

Welcome to this week’s blog post. I have decided to start the year with this topic, as I can imagine a lot of us might be thinking about changing some things right from the start of 2018.

I will spend the next couple of weeks on this, as there is much to say about a first counselling session!

If you have any questions about what you read, or anything else I haven’t written about yet, do comment or message me and I’ll add it to my next post.


There are many steps that take place before you even get to the counsellor’s office. All of them have their moments, some easier, others a bit trickier to work through.

From realising, and accepting, that things have got too much and that you need to reach out for  help, to going onto counselling directories to look for the right counsellor for you, to then finally making initial contact with a counsellor.

These are all potentially nerve-wracking tasks, but important ones to get your life back on track.


Let’s move forward to the day of your first session. You have arrived and are about to ring the doorbell and meet your counsellor for the very first time.

What should you expect?

bacp ethical framework picture for pageNow, this is a bit of a loaded question, as every counsellor will have their own ways of practicing, but we do have ethical frameworks that we adhere to, and these are in general terms, the same for all of us.

You should expect at least a couple of chairs, facing each other – mine are set up perpendicular to each other (like the title image above) so we can have eye contact but also allows you the space if you are not feeling like making too much eye contact whilst discussing a particular topic, or while you get comfortable with me and the therapy process.

Some counsellors will have a waiting room, whilst others – like myself – might work from home or smaller offices, so you might be asked to get there at the agreed starting time to avoid you waiting out in the cold, for example.

20170810_114447.jpgLighting and décor is up to each therapist, but generally there might be a bookshelf or at least some counselling related books and magazines, a desk, a clock. I have the main light on for some clients, but others prefer only the smaller lamps. Whatever is more comfortable and safe for them to speak and work through what brings them to see me.

Some counsellors have their diplomas hanging on the wall, this is a personal choice so some might have them available for you to check if you wish to do so and they are not in plain sight. I have candles in my room, which some people might or might not like, so I give a choice of putting it out or keeping it on and remember each client’s preference on this.

In regards to the initial conversations with your counsellor, they will also vary but in general you can expect the following (note: this list is non-exhaustive and I am going by how I work and general guidelines for all counsellors in the UK):

  • Contracting

  • Filling in Contact Details and other relevant information

  • The counsellor will explain how they work and other practical and process related details

  • The counsellor might ask you a few questions regarding your request for counselling

  • Next steps are discussed

Contracting and filling in contact details

The therapist will usually have a pre-written contract for you to read and agree to the terms so you can start working together. These will usually include the length of each session, the fee for each session and agreement on how you will pay (at the end of the session, bank transfer before the session, paypal, etc.), cancellation policy and the responsibilities held by the counsellor but also by yourself as a client.

You can have a look at my contract by clicking here.

The therapist will also ask you to fill in a form with your details and sign when you agree the contract terms and are ready to start therapy with this counsellor. With the internet available to us, I now prefer to send the contract and details form via email so you can read it at your leisure and in depth, so when we meet for the first time we can discuss anything that you might want to clarify or add to, and it then allows us more time to talk about what brings you to counselling now.

There are many steps that take place before you even get to the counsellor_s officeAdd heading

So far we have looked at the initial contact and possibly the first 5-10 minutes of the session.

Next week I want to delve a bit deeper into what the conversation might look like for the next 40-50 minutes during the first session.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, drop me a line below or in a message via the contact form.

Until next week..

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