Contributed by guest writer Shonah Nykiforuk

Making Your First Counselling Appointment

Making that first counselling appointment can be very daunting. Levels of uncertainty around
what might be expected of you or the level of vulnerability experienced in the session usually
remain top concerns for new clients. If you’ve never been to counselling before we hope to ease
some of that anxiety by discussing what to expect when you start counselling and what you can expect to occur in that first session.

what to expect when you start counselling

Establishing a Trusting Relationship With Your Counsellor

The most important aspect of any counselling session is the therapeutic relationship between
you and your counsellor. It is important that you feel safe with your counsellor, that there is trust
between the two of you, and that your journey with counselling remains a collaborative
experience where your input and feedback is not only welcomed but encouraged as part of your

Making Sure You Feel Safe and Secure Either Face to Face or Online

Let’s first discuss safety. All sessions are bound by confidentiality and informed consent. This
means that all which is spoken during your sessions remains completely confidential between
you and your counsellor. The only real exception to limits of confidentiality is when it comes to
the safety of you or another party. If your counsellor feels that you or someone else is at risk,
there is an obligation to make sure this party is safe, which may mean breaking confidentiality of
the session. Your counsellor will review the informed consent of sessions with you at your first
appointment and clarify any questions you may have. The safety of you as a client will always
remain the number one priority of your counsellor.

Other levels of safety could encompass the physical space itself. Our counselling offices are
secure, comfortable and allow for physical comfort while you share with your counsellor. If
physical spaces aren’t your thing, we also offer phone and video sessions that you can
participate in from the comfort of your own home. These options are available to our clients as
a way to meet your standards of a safe space.

Trust Is the First Consideration to Ensure a Good Fit

Trust is a cornerstone of the therapeutic relationship you build with your counsellor through the
therapeutic process. Part of the initial visit and an aspect of the therapeutic process will be an
assessment that is conducted by your counsellor. This assessment allows your counsellor to
establish grounding around your concerns as well as to obtain a history of mental wellness and
previous approaches you’ve taken to assist with your struggles. There is always plenty of time
for questions during this assessment and opportunities to establish trust between you and your
counsellor to make sure you are a good fit for one another.

Confidence in Your  Counsellor’s Competence

Your counsellor is trained in a variety of techniques and skills that can adapt to your particular
situation, learning style and coping mechanisms. This will help create a unique therapeutic
relationship between you and your counsellor that will continue to facilitate trust throughout your
journey. Adaptations to your goals and expectations may evolve as you grow throughout this
process and learn to trust the guidance of your sessions. Curating care to where you are at and
your readiness to grow is an evolving process between you and your counsellor.

Counselling is a Collaborative Process

Lastly, but certainly not least important is Collaboration. Collaboration is key to your success in
counselling. Your first session may seem more guided by your counsellor, exploring your concerns, history, coping mechanisms and support networks, but we will also take time to explore your hope of what you want to achieve out of counselling and help set goals together before your session ends. As your sessions progress your counsellor will come alongside you to support you through your journey of achieving these hopes and goals, while providing insight into exploring your levels of self-awareness, cognitive patterns and behaviours, as well as exploring the potential for change and providing additional education in the area of your goals. Your participation in this process will help guide and achieve your levels of success in therapy. You are the most important aspect of this process!

Counselling moves at the pace of your readiness and willingness, and no faster. Your counsellor will be in tune with where you are at and may prompt you to stretch yourself, but will not push you out of a comfort zone you aren’t yet willing to move out of.

How Your Counselling Session Typically Closes

Although it seems like a lot to cover in the beginning, you will find the counsellors at Incentive Counselling will seamlessly move the session from one element to another without much interruption to your process. Your session will close with a summary of your time together as well as discussion around your goal and desired outcomes  Your counsellor may make recommendations homework to complete between sessions, or ask you to participate in exercises outside of sessions to further improve upon what is being discussed. Recommendations may be made around frequency of visits or potential referrals if the situation requires.

Incentive Counsellors Can Ease the Counselling Process for You!

If you are willing to stretch yourself to make that first appointment, Incentive Counselling would love to assist you with finding the best time and person. When it comes to what to expect when you start counselling we understand that the first step may feel daunting, but once taken, the steps that follow will feel much easier! Contact us today to get started!

If you have any questions or comments about our post on What to Expect When You Start Counselling feel free to let us know! Happy counselling!

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