Whatever your reason for seeking support, we as human beings are more at ease when we know what to expect. This helps improve our results as well (Bressert, 2020). There are some things that the I will need to gain an understanding of so that I can assess how to best help my clients. That might include (but is not limited to):
Why you sought out therapy - maybe there’s a particular issue in your life that led you to seek out counselling. I'll need to understand this issue or issues before we can go deeper and explore what other factors might be contributing to what you’re experiencing.
Your personal history and current situation - I will ask you a series of questions about your upbringing, family history, and current situation to gain a better understanding of your experience and therapeutic goals.
Current Symptoms - other than knowing why you’ve sought therapy, I will seek find if you’re suffering from other symptoms , or perhaps different issues all together. For example, maybe the social anxiety you’ve noticed in your life is also causing difficulties at work.
I, as a therapist, take all of this information and synthesize it into a plan for therapy to work towards your identified goals.
Some recommendations for your first session - Be an active participant in your therapy!
Therapy is a team effort and a process. I like to say to my clients that I will work hard as your therapist, but the real effort lies with you. You get out of therapy what you put into it; if you don’t take an active part in the session, you won’t find counselling to be a valuable experience.
Here are some suggestions for what you can do to make your therapy experience successful, starting with your first appointment:
Be open. Therapists are trained to ask the right questions, but we are not mind readers. I can more effectively help you if you answer questions openly and honestly.
Be prepared. Before you get to your first session, reflect on what's brought you to seek out counselling and support. One way to do that is to write down reasons why you're seeking help, and what feelings are associated.
Ask questions. The more you understand the counselling process the more comfortable you will be. Feel free to ask me to repeat or explain anything you don’t understand.
MOST IMPORTANTLY - be honest about your feelings. A lot will be going through your head in our first session, but this also applies to other sessions as we continue to work together. Be mindful of your own reactions and feelings, and share them with me.
In your first appointment with me, we will spend a bit of time getting to know each other. We will review some paperwork, such as ethical obligations, confidentiality, and your right to informed consent. We will also go over your presenting concerns, and see if my approach will align with your goals for therapy. This session will give us a good sense of how to move forward. Together, we’ll agree on a number of sessions to commit to if possible, and go from there!
If you’re interested, check out either of Katie Morton’s Youtube videos on what you can expect for your first therapy appointment.
Bressert, S. (2020, Jan 14). What to expect in your first counseling session. Psych Central. Retrieved here.
Ending Therapy (Termination)
Ethically, it is the counsellor’s duty to prepare clients for the termination process and to end services when clients are no longer benefiting from counselling (Kress & Marie, 2019). For this reason, it is important to begin our conversation about the counselling relationship coming to end at the outset of therapy. In essence, counsellors seek to run themselves out of work!
When the time does come for our therapeutic relationship to come to a close, it is natural for there to be feelings of grief and loss. This transition can sometimes be challenging. When correctly implemented, termination can help to solidify the gains clients have made during counselling. It can empower clients to continue to integrate their experiences and to face whatever new chapters life has in store. Termination models healthy boundaries and a natural and appropriate end to a relationship, which is not something that we often get in life (Kress & Marie, 2019).
For this reason, at the beginning of my relationship with new clients, I suggest that they commit to 2 sessions designated for processing the end of our therapeutic relationship (barring unforeseen circumstances). Allotting 2 sessions of our time together to process and review successes, challenges, obstacles that were overcome, etc., is an important aspect of counselling that I like to discuss in our first session together.
Kress, V., & Marie, M. (2019). Counseling termination and new beginnings. Counseling Today. Retrieved here.