Like many people I've had my own mental health issues and over many years have been to a few 'first sessions' with new therapists.
Most have been good, some not so much. It is entirely normal and understandable to have some anxiety about going to see a counsellor ( or a new Counsellor) for the first time. Telling a complete stranger, even if they are a professional, about some of the most painful and distressing aspects of your life can be daunting. You may also be afraid of your own emotions and worry about whether you can keep it together and if you dont, what they will think of you. You hope and expect that they will treat you with respect and compassion and understand what a big deal it is to disclose things that you might not have told anyone else.
Sometimes having some idea of what to expect can help to ease some of the first session jitters. In your 'first session' with me, I will be wanting to find out about why you have come to counselling and what you are hoping to get from it. How I get that information will depend on you. Many people have no problem in saying what is happening for them and what they are wanting from me and the counselling process. Others might find it a little more difficult. They dont know where to start or are highly anxious and they may prefer that I ask them questions and we go from there. There is no right or wrong way and I try to keep things pretty relaxed but I am always led by you. I want you to feel safe and comfortable to say the things that you need to say but also I do not want you to feel pressured to talk about things that you are not ready to. I often take notes in the first session but usually not in future sessions. It is totally Ok to cry and many people do, particularly if they have a lot of things that they have not had an opportunity to talk about with anybody else or have been struggling with alot of emotional pain. Crying can be very cathartic for alot of people.
Our first session will also be a 'getting to know you meeting' . You will be working out whether I am someone that you would like to work with. Choosing the right therapist is important. You have to feel comfortable and safe. You have to 'click' . Sometimes it may take several sessions to find that out but usually you know after the first whether this is the therapist for you.
First sessions are about assessment and connecting.
Its a really important part of the therapy process. Sometimes, I will will only see someone for one session. They want to check out something, get some strategies or just talk about something that is worrying them and feel that they will be ok on their own after that without any further sessions. Most people come for more than one session and depending on what has brought you to therapy will depend on how many sessions you attend and how often. We can also discuss this when we first meet. At the end of the day you are in charge and you decide what is right for you.
My absolute ultimate goal for you in our first session is that you leave feeling better than when you walked in. This doesnt mean that you walk out feeling 'cured' (unlikely) but that you feel heard, respected and validated and that you may now have a little more hope moving into the future.
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