I won't ever forget my first counseling session. I was so nervous and unsure of what to say, of being analyzed, judged, or scrutinized.
And worse of all?
What on earth would I say?
For a natural extroverted chatterbox, I showed up in session and sat there silent and kind of stunned. I was used to small talk and talking about others rather than talking about myself.
Luckily I quickly realized - therapists are trained to guide us through our sessions.
What to expect in your first counseling session
In the first session, your therapist is focused on helping you feel comfortable and at ease. Assuring you that you are not being judged and that your therapist is listening to your strengths, challenges, goals and barriers. You'll likely be asked about "your world" - who your influencers are, where you grew up, siblings, significant caregivers. You will be asked about not only trauma and loss, but also heard for your resourcing and resiliency. All of this helps the therapist begin to formulate how to support you.
This first phase of counseling is about genuinely getting to know who you are, who you want to be and what prevents you from getting there.
Diagnostic screens in your first counseling session
How do you measure success in counseling? How do you know when it's time to stop or take a break? Screens for anxiety, depression, PTSD, attachment - are so helpful to see if our interventions are working. So you may be asked to complete a "baseline" that tells the therapist where your symptoms are at now and at around session 4 you'd complete the same tool again to see if things are getting better. If they are - great! If the numbers are staying the same or lower the therapist will change up which tools they are using.
Talking about homework in your first counseling session
It's the real world and not everyone has time for homework outside of sessions. It's totally fine to let your therapist know if you'd prefer to keep out of session work to a minimum. You can also specify if it's just handouts you don't prefer. That said, you should expect some "homework" in terms of behaviors or thoughts i.e. between sessions try to take a walk. If you come back and you never got that walk to happen - don't worry we aren't judging you! We're listening for what held you back and how we can help.
Talking about your ex-therapist in your first counseling session
We get it! You may have had a previous therapist and things ended for whatever reason. Connected to that can be grief, disappointment, and loss of hope. We are here to support you with that. In fact, it's super helpful to hear what has helped you in the past and what hasn't. It's not uncommon for people to share, explore, and process their feelings related to past therapy.
Concluding your first counseling session
Toward the end of the session, your counselor may provide feedback based on the information shared. This could include insights, initial observations, or potential areas of focus for future sessions. The counseling process is collaborative, and your input is valued in shaping the direction of your therapy.
Generally speaking most people start with weekly sessions, then bi-weekly, then every 3 weeks, then monthly then maintenance as needed
As the first counseling session comes to a close, your therapist will likely summarize key points discussed during the session. They will discuss any insights gained, address lingering concerns, and collaboratively plan the next steps in your therapeutic journey. This might include setting goals for future sessions, exploring potential therapeutic approaches, or discussing any homework assignments that could enhance your progress.
By understanding what to expect and actively participating in the first counselling session, you can make the most of this transformative experience. Remember, counseling is a collaborative effort, and your counselor is there to support you on your journey toward greater well-being and self-discovery. Embrace the opportunity for positive change that each counseling session brings, and approach the process with an open mind and a willingness to engage in self-reflection.
Farah Kurji and her team have been providing online counseling since 2010 with great success and are happy to help you navigate.
We're happy to offer you a complimentary meet and greet to see if we or someone would be a good fit for you. You can book it HERE.