You have been considering seeking help for a while now but you are scared and/or unsure of what to expect. Well, the good news is, most of us are scared when we take the first step in a journey. In all probability the first session/s of therapy will help reduce this fear. This article hopes to explore what to look forward to in the first session.
“Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”-Martin Luther King Jr.
The therapist is likely to ask you questions about your life, such as:
● What brought you to therapy?
● What are you experiencing right now?
● Your personal, family & medical history.
● What are you goals?
The aim of these questions is for the counsellor to gain a glimpse of what it is like to be you right now, what’s difficult, what’s not, what needs to change, etc.
Some counsellors stick to a structured assessment and some others have a more free-flowing conversation style.
It can be very difficult to open up about your deep dark secrets/ fears in the first session itself. That’s absolutely understandable and not a requirement of the first session.
Even if it looks like the counsellor is the expert, you are the one who can call the shots. Your autonomy has to be respected, right from the beginning of this professional relationship.
Your counsellor is likely to clarify and explain what kind of work they do, what goals they think are achievable, some values that they hold dear as well as ethical practices like confidentiality.
The first session is exploratory in nature, it is okay to not know exactly what you are going to say or experience.
Therapy is hard work for both the client and the counsellor. Clients are required to be present in the sessions and participate. Counsellors are required to give their undivided attention to you, listen without judgment, and give you time and space to express what you feel like.
Your rights in therapy:
Informed consent about your treatment plan.
Undivided attention of the counsellor (unless otherwise specified in crisis/ emergency situations)
Confidentiality (barring situations of self harm and harm to others, however this is broken with consent)
Autonomy: A counsellor is not supposed to bully you into decisions, treatments that you don’t feel comfortable with. Your experience has to be respected and therapy tailored to fit you and not the other way around.
Safety: You have the right to feel safe with the counsellor. The right to feel heard, acknowledged and understood by the counsellor. To share relevant opinions and experiences that might be unpopular, shameful, hurtful, weird; without being judged, shamed or ridiculed.
To start, continue or quit therapy for whatever reasons.
To ask questions that you think are relevant or may help ease some discomfort.
Therapy is a constant dance between the client and the therapist, choosing their initial poses, their choreography, synchrony, their movements and the various daises they decide to traverse. Getting into the rhythm, though hard work can also be very enjoyable.