What to Expect When you Start Counseling

It is totally unnerving to begin the counseling process.  You’ve probably scoured psychology today or reached out to many agencies or providers before finally landing at your first session.  I hope that this article provides a little comfort that it is okay to be anxious about starting the counseling process… and that this is normal!

During your first session, you’ll likely be asked a lot of questions. This is called an intake session.   Your counselor is trying to get a sense of what your needs are, your experience with prior counseling, and your present concerns.  You maybe be asked, “what brings you in today?”

The questions may seem tedious. They may seem unrelated to what your presenting problem or concern is.

It is okay to ask questions of your counselor too! You may feel like you’re on the hot seat answering all sorts of questions. Here are just a few examples of some questions you might ask your counselor:

  • How do you approach your role as my counselor?
  • Do you work with other individuals who are struggling with the same thing as me?
  • How long are sessions typically? 
  • How do you ensure that what I say in here stays here?

Your first counseling session is also a way for you to get a sense of fit between you and your counselor.  Here are a few self-reflective questions you may ask after your first session. 

  • Did my counselor make me feel safe?
  • Did the counselor seem interested in my story and what my needs are?
  • What overall feeling did I get during and after the session?

You may hope that you’re going to feel immediately better after a counseling session.  Actually, studies show that even reaching out and making an appointment with a counselor can make you feel better! However, allow yourself grace for the process and that change does not happen overnight. It may take time for you to even articulate fully what it is that you are hoping to accomplish in counseling.

Stepping in to a counseling space is something to be applauded.  You should feel proud of yourself and the steps you are taking to ensure your mental wellbeing!

Lastly, not every counselor is a fit for every counselor.  If you feel this is the case, it is okay to discuss this with your counselor.   You may desire to try another provider and this is okay!  The counseling space is about you and a great space to practice advocating for your own needs and wants.  Your counselor will not be offended for providing feedback to them on what is or is not working. 

Sign In