I have said it before and I’ll say it again, picking an anonymous counsellor from a few words and a picture on the internet takes incredible courage. You are planning to share what may be complex, painful and sometimes scary feelings with a stranger.
Once you've made the decision, the next leap was the phone call to book the appointment, but what is next? After all this courage, you have the wait until your first session and no frame of reference.
I can’t tell you how this first session will go with all counsellors, I can tell you how it happens with me and this will at least give you an idea of what to expect.
What happens now?
In the first session with a client, I take the first few minutes to tell them about myself and my practice. Counselling is a relational undertaking and building this relationship can’t happen if I am an unknown entity.
I talk a little about my training and my journey since qualifying and my kids and all our animals (we have lots thanks to my daughter), I do this to help my new client get a sense of the type of person I am.
I deal with the logistics of the sessions by explaining confidentiality, who else is in the building, time boundaries, reviews and payment.
I make a special effort to ensure my new client understands who they can complain to if they are unhappy with my approach, I mention at this point that my hope is that we can talk before concerns get to that point.
I explain that I keep notes, and my client can see these; an initial assessment will be sent if the client chooses to continue their journey with me. I mention what modalities I use and that I often set homework but it is the client’s choice to complete it or not.
It may seem like this takes up a lot of the first session, and this is so my client can make an informed choice about working with me. I finish this part of the session by explaining at the end that my client will have three choices, 1. book another session, 2. I will keep the appointment slot available for three days and the client can leave and think about whether they wish to work with me or not, or, 3. we thank each other for our time and we go our separate ways.
If a client chooses option 3, I will always encourage them to go back to the app or platform they found my details on and continue to look for a counsellor. The fact that they have come this far is usually a fair indication they are ready for counselling and if it’s not with me, they need to keep looking for the right person.
Finally, I hand the session over to my client, explaining that I will be quiet and only ask questions if you are struggling with silence, or if I need something clarified
What should I share?
Many new clients will tell me they don’t know where to start, it can be the start is a long time in the past or there were several starts that have amalgamated into the current situation. A useful place to begin is what is it about now that has brought you to counselling?
At the end of the session
No counsellor should pressure you into booking another session, and you don’t have to give a reason if you choose not to. This is your journey; you have to be comfortable with those you ask to go on it with you.
Remember, you have to be comfortable with your counsellor, if not, keep looking, the fact you have come this far shows it is time for you, get back on the websites and look again, the right counsellor for you is out there.