Initial Counselling Session

Before you come to see me for your first initial session is better if you could organise your thoughts about your current situation.

This can be helpful when you are feeling confused or unhappy. More importantly, thinking beforehand about some of the issues you are facing at the moment will help you to explain your situation more easily when you first see your counsellor and ensure you make a good start. You might like to make some notes in preparation for your first session and it may be helpful to bring them with you for the first session. I use the word "problem" as shorthand for the reason you are seeking some form of counselling, and the therapeutic session can be viewed in terms of its use in helping you to overcome problems.

The initial session

The first step is to be clear about the problems you are trying to get help for. This may not be as easy as it sounds. You may be seeking help because of non-specific feelings – such as feeling low or lacking energy or feeling fearful – and you may not be able to pinpoint the problem. This is not something to worry about. Your first session with me as a counsellor is usually treated as an initial assessment, when you and I will be try to clarify the problem and identify your particular needs. Sometimes this initial assessment can continue for the first few sessions until we find out more about the nature of your problems. There is an initial consultation form which you can either fill out before you come to see me, or which we can complete together during your first session. Your responses to the initial consultation form will help me to decide whether a particular type of therapy is suitable for you. Ideally, the Initial Consultation Form will help you to structure your thinking and prepare you for your first session. If you decide to see me without going through the initial consultation form it’s also fine. We will do it together during your first session. Remember, as with any relationship, the more the client can put into their relationship with their counsellor, the more they will get out of it.

Describing your problems

The reason why you are seeking counselling may not always be easy to pinpoint or to put into simple words. However, a basic label such as "anxiety" or "depression" may not be that helpful in an initial assessment. What is necessary is to find a form of words to describe why you have decided to seek help at that moment. Most people seeking counselling have more than one problem they want to work on. During the first session you will be given an opportunity to describe your main problems in order of importance and for example to rate how severe you think each of them is. This could also be one of the best ways of measuring the outcome of your counselling sessions.

Your expectations and goals

When you come to see me for the first time it is worth thinking about what you are expecting from the meeting and what you would like to get out of it. It is natural to feel quite anxious about the first meeting. Some of this anxiety might give rise to rather negative expectations, which in turn can make you feel even more anxious. Focusing on the reasons that you decided to approach a counsellor may help you to overcome these thoughts and feelings. In fact, as trust in your counsellor develops, you may well be able to share some of the negative and anxious thoughts you had. Exploring them may later prove very helpful. The other kind of expectation you will have is about what you want to get out of the process – the "goals" of your therapy. Each client will have his or her personal goals. For some, these may be improvements in how they feel, or a reduction in the severity of their problems. For others, the hope may be simply to find someone who will listen and understand. Some may be looking for some feedback from an objective person. Sometimes the goal may be to make sense of a situation or to sort out feelings and reactions. People starting short-term counselling or therapy may expect to find solutions for very specific problems, while those embarking long-term treatment may have goals such as a change in enduring patterns of behaviour or finding a sense of meaning to their life. It may be that short-term therapy will focus more on problem-solving while long-term therapy will concern itself with broader or more global issues. A fundamental assumption in the therapy world is that people seeking help from counsellors and counsellors are capable of solving and managing their problems, and that the aim of therapy is to help people help themselves. So it is strongly recommended that you spend some time reflecting on your expectations before you first meet your counsellor. If your expectations match what the counsellor believes he or she could help you with, then you are on the right track.



Membership No. VV00P02