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5 Tips to Prepare for Your First Counselling or Therapy Session

A therapy session, with client and therapist contemplating together

Mindfully points out that the thought of counselling can intimidate some people, which is why so many people who could benefit from counselling or therapy neglect to get it. So, if you’ve made your first appointment, congratulations! You’ve taken the first step toward better mental health and well-being.

However, preparing beforehand is essential to get the most from your session. Below, Solihull Well Being Clinic shares five simple strategies for getting ready for your first counselling session.

1. Be Organised

When you consider starting in therapy, check out the credentials and experience of the counsellor or therapist you are planning to see. All therapists and counsellors at Solihull Well Being Clinic are registered with a reputable accrediting body, (there are lots, to include the BAC, BACP, HCPC, AFT, UKCP, BPS. etc etc.). Wherever you choose to see a Counsellor or Therapist, do ask to talk with them, and have a list of questions you want to ask. For example

· How long have you been practicing?

· Have you worked with the kind of issues I am experiencing?

· Do you feel you will be able to help me?

Before planning counselling or therapy sessions, do review your diary and commitments, so that you can be available for the sessions that are offered. Be realistic about your availability, because consistent attendance will build the momentum needed for change. You should also ask the therapist of counsellor what their working hours are, and can they see you at a time that is suitable for you.

Also, if you are employed check if your workplace will provide some time off, or allow you to work in lieu of the time you are taking out to come to sessions (even if this is online). Ask whether there may be an insurance plan, as sessions would then be covered by providers such as BUPA, AXA PPP, AVIVA or others. In this case, you will need to obtain your authorisation code, and share your member details with the counsellor you see.

2. Reflect On Your Needs

Before showing up to your first session, think carefully about some of the symptoms you've been experiencing, and take notes in a physical or digital notebook. Chances are you will be a bit nervous or anxious at your appointment, which can make it difficult to remember the specific issues or situations you were hoping to talk about.

Here are a few questions to jot down and answer in your notebook:

● What issues have you been experiencing that have made you seek counselling?

● Why are you reaching out to a professional, and why now?

● What are you hoping to get out of your first session?

● If the therapy improves matters, what will your life look like then?

Bringing your notes to your first appointment can help both you and your counsellor. They can serve as an excellent starting point even if they don't go into deep detail about what you're experiencing.

3. Consider Your Goals and Expectations

Meaningful change is the ultimate goal of any type of therapy or counselling. But you will want to create specific goals for your first session and any following appointments. Maybe you want to improve at self-love or develop a healthier relationship with a family member. Perhaps you're recovering from substance abuse and need help structuring your life so that you flourish.

Write down your goals, even if it's one or two outcomes you would like to see. As you and your therapist get to know each other, you will collaborate to determine specific goals and steps for your unique situation.

4. Keep an Open Mind

PsychCentral notes that a large chunk of your first counselling appointment will be geared toward helping you and the therapist get to know each other. You'll likely need to talk about yourself, including your history, background, goals, and why you’re coming to therapy or counselling. Understand that each therapist or counsellor comes at it with their own approach, so try to stay open-minded and flexible in your expectations. At Solihull Well Being Clinic, some therapists offer a pre-consultation form that you may complete, as a way to streamline the process, and inform the therapist of your background even before you attend.

You can also expect to discuss administrative topics with your therapist, such as whether or not your health insurance policy will cover sessions, scheduling and billing, cancellation and confidentiality policies. Don't hesitate to ask questions; your counsellor or therapist will understand that this is your first appointment and will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable.

If you are looking for a therapist or counsellor and can't see the wood for the trees, contact Solihull Well Being Clinic. We offer a free initial guidance call, and can direct you to a number of Integrative and Person Centred Counsellors on our team, to help with your needs. We also have access to a wide range of more prescribed psychological therapies such as Cognitive Analytical Psychotherapy (CAT), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) and Transactional Analyis (TA). We additional have Psychiatric Services, Family and Couple Counselling Therapists, Nutritional Consultations, Sophrology and Relaxation Therapy, Neurofeedback, Meditation and a range of Holistic Treatments (Reiki, Reflexology, Meditation etc.) to meet your personal preferences and needs.

5. Reflect After Your Appointment

After your first appointment, take time to reflect on your experience. Examine how you feel about the session and your counsellor or therapist and take specific notes while your thoughts are still fresh. You may ask yourself

· What take home messages did I receive?

· What was helpful, and sparked my curiosity?

· Did I understand something about myself or my situation, that I want to remember?

· Will there be any particular strategy or approach I want to practice, to start creating change?

Remember that subsequent counselling appointments may not be like your first. Each session is its own space. The key is to reflect on whether or not you were comfortable talking with the therapist and trust them enough to attend again.

It’s advisable to give any counselling or therapy process at least 2-3 sessions before you decide to stop, unless of course there was something especially off-putting that happened. This is very unlikely given the training and supervision counsellors and therapists must undertake. Nevertheless, if you are unhappy, please do talk to your therapist or counsellor – it may be that this talking is an aspect of the change that needs to happen in your life, and can be practiced with a trained listener, who will respect and appreciate your views.

Embrace the Power of Therapy

Starting counselling could be one of the best decisions you ever make. And if you prepare for your first appointment beforehand, make notes as you move through and practice ideas that are designed to create change, you can better ensure you get the most from your experience. Working with a professional you trust can go a long way in fostering your mental health and positioning yourself to flourish.

Perry Johanssen

Perry Johanssen

Guest Author


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