Are you thinking about going for counselling, but worrying about what the first session would be like? Or have you already booked, but you’re feeling really nervous about it? I know I was before my first counselling session, so to help calm those nerves, here’s an overview of what to expect
I can vividly recall how I felt while sitting in my car before my first counselling session. I was incredibly nervous and full of questions: What if they didn’t like me? Would they make me talk about things I didn’t want to? Would I have to lie on a couch and talk about my mother? What if they told me I was losing my mind?! There was a veil of mystery over the whole therapy thing that set my mind spiralling.
Thankfully, none of the above actually happened. In fact that first session was the start of something that genuinely changed my life. My counsellor was kind, patient, warm and understanding, and they quickly helped me feel safe and at ease. This is the exact experience I now aim to provide for my clients.
Remembering that time, I’d like to help you avoid getting stuck in that stressful pre-therapy spiral, so I’ve created this overview of what a first session with me would be like to help put you at ease.
WHERE'S MY COUNSELLOR?!
Ok, this may sound a bit basic, but I remember not knowing where to park, or how to find the counsellor’s room. This just added yet another slab of anxiety to my already stacked plate of reasons-to-be-nervous. So, before the session, I’ll email you with the full address of my room for counselling in Stamford, instructions on where to park, and a few photos to make this even easier.
A SAFE SPACE
The first session is a chance for us to discover what it would be like to work together. So, from the moment you arrive, my aim is to help you feel safe enough to discuss whatever you need to. I'll make it clear that I'm understanding what you say, that I won’t judge or criticise, and that I’m genuinely there for you.
Any good therapy is a collaboration, so we’ll need to build it together, and from the start I’d encourage you to express how the session feels, and if there’s something you don’t like, please tell me and I’ll try to resolve it.
JUST BETWEEN US
I’ll be honest, I’m no fan of admin, so in general my sessions are paperwork-free zones. But the first session is different. We need to create a framework for your therapy, so we’ll make an agreement that helps create a safe structure for our work together.
This initial discussion will clarify important aspects of counselling such as confidentiality. Which reminds me - everything we discuss here is purely between you and I. There are a few exceptions to this, and I will make these clear in the session, but on the whole everything said in the room stays in the room.
You won't have to commit to a set number of sessions - this is simply about us agreeing a safe way to work together and I'll make sure you fully understand everything before we begin.
I will then need to take a few necessary details from you and I’ll explain how I keep this data safe. Also, we’ll complete a short questionnaire that provides snapshot of how things are and acts as a benchmark to refer back to in later sessions. If it feels comfortable for you, I’ll send this before we meet. If not, we would complete this together in the session and go from there.
TIME TO TALK
Once this is done, the session would feel more like the rest of your therapy. I would invite you to speak in more detail about what brought you here: what’s been happening for you, how you’ve been feeling and what thoughts you’ve been struggling with. I would respond in ways that help you know that I’ve really listened, making clear that I have a growing understanding of what’s going on for you and why things have been so difficult. And I may introduce a few thoughts on how we could start to change things for you.
We would then consider what would be most helpful to initially work on, and I’d help you come up with some goals for your therapy. I refer to these as ‘soft goals’ - they’re there to help us know that we’re heading in a direction that’s genuinely helpful. We’ll check back on them every now and again, and if we feel they need changing, breaking down or that we’ve achieved what we set out to, we’d then revise them, or add something new.
We’d then take a few minutes to discuss how the session has felt, and whether it feels right for us to start to working together. If it didn’t, I would then try to help by pointing you in the right direction for alternative support. At this point we might consider whether this is likely to be a short or longer term therapy, or whether we want to take it a few sessions at a time and keep this discussion open.
AFTER THE SESSION
Finally, it’s worth having a think about what you’ll be doing after the session. Therapy can be incredibly liberating and uplifting, but equally you may well have been talking about things that are emotional, and this can be both upsetting and tiring. In the session itself I’ll work to help you feel safe and calm, but there’s no denying that counselling can be difficult at times. So I recommend that you allow yourself a little time after the session, just to let things settle, to give yourself space to adjust before re-entering the faster pace of the world outside the counselling room.
I hope this give you a better idea of what to expect from your first counselling session and helps relieve some of those pre-therapy nerves. By the end of the session, we’ll have created the basis for your next steps in therapy and hopefully you'll have already started to see that positive change really is possible for you.
If this has helped settle some nerves and you feel ready to take the next step towards face-to-face counselling in Stamford, or online or telephone therapy, please phone or text me on 07870 135 986, or email me at email@example.com, and I’ll get back within 24 hours to arrange a free 20-30 minute pre-therapy consultation to see if counselling could work for you…