Is not knowing exactly what happens in your first counselling session causing some anxiety? Is fear keeping you from making an appointment because of uncertainty?
I’m here to assure you that although the first session can cause some rattled nerves there is nothing to be afraid of. Fear of the unknown is valid and experienced by many people.
During the first session with my clients, there is an intake process. You will fill out some paperwork that involves consent to participate in therapy and a confidentiality agreement. After you read and sign it, I check in with you to see if you have any questions. If you’re not familiar with my therapeutic approach then I tell you about how I like to work with clients. Then we move on to some questions about your medical background, current habits, concerning symptoms, and the reason you are seeking therapy.
This process can fill up the entire first session. It’s one of the most important sessions because we are getting to know each other. You’re deciding if I’m a good fit for your counselling needs and I am assessing if I can meet those needs. As a clinical counsellor I will absolutely refer clients to another practitioner if that is what the client requests or if the client’s needs are outside of my scope of practice. It would be unethical not to do so.
As a client, it’s important to feel comfortable and safe with your counsellor. A strong therapeutic relationship is essential to successful therapy outcomes. If you feel like you don’t trust or respect your counsellor, then the therapy process will not work. You also must feel safe with your counsellor and feel like you can open up to them without the fear of being judged.
The first session is just the beginning to building a strong foundation for your healing process and it vital to find a counsellor that you can connect with. The first counsellor you meet may not be a good fit for you, or even the second or third, so take your time in finding a counsellor who will hold space for you in the way you need them to.
So consider the first session as a ‘getting to know each other’ session. Depending on the client’s needs, goals may be talked about as well as some treatment planning and resources. But mostly it’s an introduction session. If a client has been in therapy before or is in crisis, then this linear process may look a lot different.
No matter what, as a counsellor I believe it’s important to meet you where you are and then proceed from there.
See, not too scary, right?
I usually have light refreshments in my office as well so there’s that. 😊
And of course, there’s the art therapy piece of what I do but I’ll save that for my next post.
*Heather Hassenbein is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Professional Art Therapist located in Vancouver, BC.