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  • Writer's pictureAveril

(Updated 2024) What happens in your first counselling session?

Updated: 17 hours ago

What happens in your first counselling session blog post

Many of my clients have never been to counselling before, and the first session can often be a mysterious and fairly nerve-wracking experience. My aim in this post is to explain the process of booking in with me for the first time and coming to your first appointment, whether that's in-person in Birkenhead on the North Shore, or online using Zoom.

When you book in for the first time, there's a consent form to read and sign electronically and a place to enter your contact information and a brief outline of what you're seeking support with. You pay in advance for this first session only (subsequent sessions are paid for after each one).

When I receive your booking, I'll get in contact to have a brief chat on the phone so I can answer any questions you might have, as well as find out a little bit about what you are seeking counselling for.

An important part of therapy's effectiveness is that you and the counsellor are the right "fit", so in this chat we can get an initial sense if that's the case and check I've got the right approach for what you'd like support with. If it seems a different approach or therapist might work better for you (say for example, you tell me that you are in the process of getting a diagnosis for a personality or eating disorder, and I know a Clinical Psychologist might have more tools to offer you), I'll offer to help you find someone else - this happens only occasionally though. Your session payment is fully refunded if this is the case.

For in-person sessions, I'll text or email you with the details of how to find my office building and room, and where the waiting area is.

For online appointments, I'll email you the Zoom link a day or so before your session so it doesn't get lost in your email. It's helpful if you check that Zoom is working correctly at your end - if you use the app, you might want to check it's all up to date on your device as the updates can take a couple of minutes.

If you haven't used Zoom much before, get familiar with how you turn on your video and your microphone, and check your microphone and speakers are working. A good strong internet connection wherever you are sitting helps too, but sometimes there's the occasional glitch at my end or yours, and we can almost always get it working again quickly.

On the day of your online appointment, just click the link in the email and it will send you to the "waiting room" until I start the session at my end. You might wish to use headphones if someone else is in the next room, have tissues and water to hand, and I almost always have a cup of tea or coffee with me so I encourage you to get comfy and have one too!

Hopefully you’ve had a chance to read about me on this site or one of my other profiles (on the therapist directories TalkingWorks and Psychology Today). I like to offer new clients a chance to ask me any questions at the start (“How do I say your name?” is a common one). Averil is said with the “a” as in “apple”, and it is said the same as Avril Lavigne!

To start the session off, I'll get some basic background information from you, particularly around your history with your mental wellbeing (have you felt overall pretty good throughout your life, or have you had more ups and downs with your mood or anxiety? Were you generally a happy kid or were you a bit more shy or anxious?)

I make notes as we talk, which I do in all sessions, but especially this first one as there’s a lot of information I want to remember. There will also be other particular things I want to know, like your general health, any medications, and so on, which I’ll ask about as we talk.

Then we will set some goals for our work together - if you decide that we get along well, and you'd like to keep coming, what do you want to get out of our work? How will we know things are getting better for you? These goals help keep us on track, and help me get an idea of how we will structure our work together and the kinds of conversations, tools and techniques that might be of most use to you. We can always add or adjust goes as we go too.

Once the initial goals are done, we'll start talking about what life is like right now for you. The first session often goes pretty quickly, and sometimes we won’t get the whole story out in fifty minutes. Depending on the issue you’ve come with however, I can often offer a strategy or two to take home and practice that I think might help you in between sessions.

At the end of our time, I’ll ask you how we went, and if you think you'd like to keep coming. There’s no pressure or obligation to – you can go away and think about it, you can decide you’d like to try other therapists or styles of counselling, or perhaps you realise you don’t quite feel ready to tackle the issue. As mentioned, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your therapist, and no offence is taken if you feel like you and I didn’t click.

If you do want to continue, it’s helpful to go online and schedule our first 3-4 sessions weekly, so you and I get to know each other, get comfortable, and get on a bit of a roll with your issue and making progress. It also helps to ensure I don’t get booked up and that we can secure a time-slot that works for us both. You pay in advance for your first session when you've booked, but after that you will just pay after each session using an online banking transfer, so there's no financial requirement at the time of booking. You can also use the link in the email confirmation you receive to go in and cancel or reschedule your appointments yourself up to 24 hours in advance if your availability changes.

Some people continue to come weekly and others choose to move to fortnightly or more spaced out sessions. I know counselling is expensive for many people however, so do talk to me if weekly sessions aren’t possible to begin with and we will figure out what works.

Interested in getting started? Click here to make your first appointment.

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