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  • Writer's pictureJodie James

What to Expect in Your First Counselling Session

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Embarking on counselling can be a transformative experience. Knowing what to expect in your first session can ease any apprehension and pave the way for a rewarding journey. In this article, I aim to demystify your first counselling session, to set a foundation of preparedness as you take this significant step.



Understanding the Role of Your Counsellor

At the heart of your first session is the establishment of a therapeutic relationship. Your counsellor is a trained professional, equipped with the skills to facilitate your self-exploration and healing. One of the fundamental roles of your counsellor is to create a safe, confidential, and non-judgmental environment. This space is where you can express yourself freely, explore your thoughts and feelings, and confront challenges without fear of criticism or prejudice. A counsellor's commitment to maintaining confidentiality is crucial in fostering trust, a key component of the therapeutic relationship. By ensuring a safe space, your counsellor helps you feel valued and understood, which can significantly enhance the effectiveness of the therapy. This environment facilitates open communication, enabling you to delve deeper into personal issues, knowing that your counsellor is there to support and guide you, rather than to pass judgement or offer unsolicited advice.


The Structure of the First Session

The initial session typically revolves around getting to know each other. You will discuss your background, current concerns, and what you hope to achieve through counselling. This session lays the groundwork for future interactions and helps your counsellor tailor their approach to your unique needs.


Discussing Confidentiality

Confidentiality is a cornerstone of the counselling relationship. Your counsellor will explain the boundaries and ethics surrounding confidentiality, ensuring that you feel secure in the knowledge that your discussions are private.


Sharing Your Story

You are encouraged to share what brought you to counselling. This may involve discussing your current situation, life events, emotional challenges, or any specific incidents that you feel are significant. Sharing your story in counselling is an act of bravery and vulnerability. It involves opening up about personal experiences, thoughts, and emotions that you may not have verbalised before. This process can be both liberating and daunting. Your counsellor understands the courage it takes to be transparent and honest, and is there to support you every step of the way. As you share, your counsellor will listen attentively, providing a compassionate and empathetic ear. This process is not about rushing to find solutions but about understanding and validating your experiences. It's an opportunity for you to explore your narrative in a deeper, more meaningful way, uncovering insights and perspectives that may have been hidden. By sharing your story, you’re not just recounting events; you’re beginning to understand and rewrite the narrative of your life, a journey that your counsellor is dedicated to supporting.


Setting Goals

Together with your counsellor, you'll begin to outline what you wish to accomplish through counselling. These goals can be specific (like managing anxiety or dealing with a relationship issue) or more general (like seeking personal growth or better self-understanding). Your counsellor will likely suggest some initial strategies to start addressing your concerns. This might include reflective exercises, journaling, or specific actions to try before your next session.


Understanding Different Modalities in Counselling


Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy prioritises your individual experience, emphasising your capacity for self-awareness and personal growth. This approach views you as the best expert on yourself and encourages exploring your feelings and taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions. Techniques like client-centred therapy and Gestalt therapy fall under this umbrella.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is an approach focused on the interplay between thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. CBT aims to identify and challenge negative thought patterns, replacing them with more realistic and positive ones. This approach is particularly effective for conditions like anxiety and depression, helping clients develop coping strategies that can be used in everyday life.


Psychodynamic Therapy

Rooted in the teachings of Freud, psychodynamic therapy delves into your past to understand the root causes of your current difficulties. It focuses on unconscious processes and how these influence your present behaviour and feelings. This therapy is beneficial for those who want to explore deeper emotional issues and understand long-standing patterns in their lives.


Integrative Therapy

Integrative therapy combines elements from different therapeutic disciplines to create a tailored approach for each individual. It recognises that no single therapy is the answer to every problem and thus adapts to the needs of each client. This approach is flexible and considers various aspects of your personality and emotional needs.


Post-Session Reflection

After a counselling session, you may experience a wide range of emotions. It's not uncommon to feel relief or a sense of clarity, but sessions can also bring up intense feelings like sadness, confusion, or even frustration. Recognising and accepting these emotions as a natural part of the healing process is crucial. Reflect on these feelings, as they can offer valuable insights into your journey.

Journaling can be an excellent tool for post-session reflection. Writing down your thoughts and feelings after a session can help you process and understand them better. You might find patterns emerging or gain new perspectives on the issues discussed. This practice can also be a useful way to track your progress over time.

Engaging in self-care after a counselling session is essential. Whether it's a relaxing activity like a warm bath or a walk in nature, or simply allowing yourself some quiet time, self-care activities can help you process your emotions and recharge.

Take note of any shifts in your perspective or understanding of the issues you're working through. Counselling often brings new ways of looking at problems, and recognising these shifts can be very empowering. Think about what you'd like to discuss or focus on in your next session. Is there a particular topic that needs more exploration? Are there questions you have for your therapist? Being proactive about your therapy can make your sessions more effective.


Committing to the Process

Counselling is a journey, not a quick fix. It requires commitment and openness to explore and address deep-seated emotions and patterns. Give yourself time to adjust to this process and approach each session as a step towards growth and healing.


Jodie James Counselling Services

At Jodie James Counselling, I'm committed to providing compassionate, personalised counselling services to support your journey. If you're considering counselling, or if you have any questions about what to expect, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Remember, this is your space and time – a place for healing, growth, and self-discovery.


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