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What to expect in your first session

So, you've decided to book in your first appointment! Maybe this is your first time ever receiving psychotherapy or counselling, or perhaps your first time with me. I will say I can't speak for all therapists for starting counselling, as there is a lot of variety in how we prefer to begin working with people. However, hopefully I can provide an outline of what you can expect for our first meeting together:

Two people facing each other in chairs

Booking the session

Usually, we will have already spoken by email, text, or in an introductory telephone call, and will have arranged a time for our first session. We would have agreed to meet in-person or online, and I will then send you either the address or the link to the video call, as well as our contract and payment details for you to look over and pay before our session. Money can be a difficult part of counselling, but if you have any questions about paying, or if you're struggling, then we can navigate this together as part of our work. I offer fortnightly sessions for those who can't afford weekly, in order to try and ease some of the financial strain if needed. If you have any questions before your session, you can send me an email, and I will usually reply or will suggest we speak about it during the session. Often the questions might be helpful to bring in the first session, so if they're not urgent, feel free to ask when we begin or when you feel ready.

The first session - contracting

I'll open the door on time, and if we're in person, I'll offer you a hot drink or a cup of water. If we're online, I'll ask if you've got a quiet, confidential space and something to drink if you need it.

The first session is a little different to others - usually, I would let you speak first, bringing whatever you want to talk about that week. For this one, however, I'll talk to you about the contract, which sets out how we go about counselling (including aspects outside the room, such as if we were to meet in public). This is a good opportunity for you to ask any questions you might have, or for us to look at amendments or things we might need to consider for your own counselling. The contract is there to set expectations for both of us during and outside our sessions, and while there are some things that I can't necessarily change, I'm happy to explain why I do things a certain way, as it's important you are comfortable with our agreement. If you've had counselling before, I might ask what you liked about it, and what you'd expect from your sessions with me. Once we've gone over the contact and you are happy with it, then we'll move on.

Where to start

By that point we'll have about 30-40 minutes left for you to tell me more about why you've come to therapy, and what you're hoping to get out of your sessions. It might be that you struggle to know where to start, or it might feel like you want to share everything going on for you all at once - that's okay! We can work together to find a direction that feels like you are sharing things that are important to you, and important for me to know for helping you in your counselling journey. These can be good things, like people in your life that support you or things that make you feel good, or unhelpful things, like difficult events in your life or people that have hurt you. There's no single way to share things in therapy, so it might feel awkward or uncomfortable at times, but I will never force you to share things you don't want to, or tell you what you should be doing.

The last 5 minutes

At the end of our session, we'll take 5 minutes to talk about how you're feeling, and to make sure you're happy to continue counselling with me. This is both to ensure you're feeling okay and safe (as much as possible), but also to check that you've felt we're a good fit for each other. If not, we might explore what else you were looking for that you didn't get, and I can help you to find another therapist. If you are happy to keep going together, we'll book our next appointment, usually at the same time the following week, and the work begins!

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