So you think it is time to do something or get support on something going on in your life, but now what? There are so many options out there, with different titles that it can make it daunting to know where to start in order to find the right fit for a counselor for you. This post is not going to cover all those questions at this time, but stay tuned for future articles that will be aimed at addressing more of these questions! This post is to focus on some general things that can be expected during your first counseling session.
Therapists/Counselors generally have different ways of conducting their first session. However, as a general rule they tend to follow these basics. One thing you can expect in your first session is paperwork. Unfortunately, it just can’t be escaped! How much there is varies on where you go. But, you should expect to fill out some sort of agreement to participate in therapy, a form on basic demographic information, information regarding the risks of therapy, information regarding the rights of the client, receive a personal disclosure statement from the counselor (this is a document required by law for clinicians to give clients upon first meeting that describes them and their practice), if using insurance then you should be prepared to give that information as well.
Most clinicians will also have some sort of assessment that they give during the first session too, mostly to help narrow down what the problem is and the symptoms you are experiences so they best know how to help address the issues going on. Some may just do this by asking questions in session that give them an idea of those symptoms, and they may have an assessment they give later to get a better idea of how severe the symptoms are and how often they are actually present.
Once you are done with the paperwork, the therapist/counselor should then inform you regarding how the counseling process works for them and what you can further expect from counseling services. If they don’t get into these details, it would be good for you to ask. It is important to know how and why they choose the steps they do as it will aid in making sure they are a good fit for you and it can help with communication/expectations.
Another expectation for the first session is the therapist/counselor just trying to get to know you. They may ask about things you enjoy doing, your family, challenges in life, things you have done, work/school, other relationships, among other general questions that your conversation may lead to. They do this so that they can get a better idea of your interests and strengths to better aid in knowing what therapeutic tools would be helpful. There is also genuine interest in just getting to know you and your story as well as you are a unique person and worth learning about!
Feel free to ask any questions you have regarding the way that therapist/counselor conducts their sessions as well. They should be willing and have an answer for these questions.
Depending on what type of therapy you are doing, they may also have a little activity to do to help you get more comfortable with the process and get to know you more as well.
Depending on the therapist/counselor, there could be some differences in the way they conduct their first session, but this gives a basic overview of what many therapists/counselors do in their first sessions.
by Amber Kliewer, MA LMHC CCTP
July 3, 2021