What To Expect My First Counseling Session

After you have decided to seek counseling and made the brave action of setting your appointment, the question of what to can be anxiety provoking.  The questions of can this stranger help me?  What should I say? What are they going to think of me? All of these are common questions that people ponder.  In fact, I’ve learned that helping clients understand what is going to happen during their first appointment (often called the intake session) can be greatly helpful in putting them at ease and starting our counseling relationship on welcoming note. We will identify some common parts of a first counseling session and ways to get the most out of your session.

While there a variety of personalities and styles there are some commonalities you can expect your first appointment. The first session is dedicated to getting to know you, your goals, developing a tentative plan to accomplish them and most importantly can chance for you to ask questions. At Pathway Counseling Center specifically, collaboration, informed decisions, and transparency are values.  You can expect general questions concerning physical health, substance use, and work history/satisfaction with work or significant relationships in your life to aid in increasing better outcomes for your goals. It should be noted you only have to share what you feel comfortable with. If you are uncomfortable with any question you can choose to omit the information or simply ask to pass. Your therapist will respect your boundaries without any frustration. Your therapist is there to make you feel comfortable without fear of being judged.

It is so important that you find the right fit in a therapist. You should feel a welcoming attitude, ability to help you with your goals and a shared comfort of working together. Just focus on being yourself and saying what you need to say. It might take three sessions for you to decide whether you feel comfortable, or it might take one. As things are wrapping up at the end of your session, the therapist might ask you how you feel about working together. Even if they don’t, this is a good time to discuss your feelings about the potential relationship. If you aren’t sure about your comfort level yet, this is also ok to express! Personally, I always appreciate hearing about how clients feel and can even offer suggestions for another therapist if desired. My therapeutic motto is “This is not about me but you!”

At the same time, know is common to feel some discomfort either initially or further into your counseling experience. You have sought out counseling because you are ready to stop avoiding your problems but feelings of anxiety, guilt, sadness, embarrassment, etc. might creep in when you start. Do not be alarmed by this experience, and again- share it with your therapist. Prepared phases such as, “This is hard to talk about” or I’m not sure I want to talk about this.” can help to address your concerns. Keep in mind that confidentiality is a foundational feature of therapy. Remember that therapy is a process that will unfold over time. Probably not much will change after your first session. You are going to walk out having started getting your therapist informed about your concerns, but it will be something that you continue to revisit and unpack at each session. If you can have patience with the process and with yourself, you will see results.


Tiffany D. Flowers MA, LMHC, IADC


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