Starting counselling for the first time can be really daunting so I’m writing to ease that first experience. If you have never been for counselling before you won’t know what to expect which can add to feelings of anxiety and apprehension around it. The important thing to remember is that you have decided to come for counselling for a reason so make the most of the experience for your own wellbeing.

In the first session, I will complete an intake form which gathers some general information such as age, occupation, family information etc. I will also go through the verbal contact to make it safe for us to work together.

To get a better indication of why you have come for counselling I will also ask questions about:

How you have been feeling lately.

What are the main concerns you want to talk about?

Medical history.

Drug and alcohol history. I might do a drug and alcohol assessment with you, if necessary.

If you are concerned about a family member’s drug and alcohol history, how are you coping?

What are your goals for counselling?

Everything you say is confidential (unless you are threatening to hurt yourself or someone else) so be honest and say what’s on your mind so your counsellor has a better idea of what is going on. Counselling is a team effort so take an active part in the sessions to get the most out of them.

Be open and honest about what is going on with you. While I am a trained therapist I am not a mind reader so the more open you are with me the clearer the picture I have so I can best support you. Tune into your reactions to what is going on in the sessions and share them with your counsellor, it will give you great insight into yourself.

Have a goal in mind. Counselling is expensive so be clear about why you are going to counselling, write down the reasons you are looking for support and share with your counsellor.

If you are unsure of anything ask questions. If you need clarity about the counselling process, contract or confidentiality agreement then don’t be afraid to ask.

Understand that therapy takes time and isn’t a quick fix. It requires you to do a lot of the work to get the full benefits. Of course, your counsellor will be working too but only you can bring your fears, concerns and past experiences to the sessions, this requires a willingness to be open from you.

This one is really important: make sure you like your counsellor.  You need to have a connection with your counsellor for the process to work. If you don’t like your counsellor it will evoke resistance in the counselling process. Know that it’s perfectly ok to change counsellors to get the right fit for you.

Facing our issues can be challenging so you might feel worse before you begin to feel better. Facing our past can be painful and it’s often at this point people drop out of therapy. But it might take a few sessions before things begin to improve so stick with it and things will get better for the long term.

As a counsellor, I know that working with people at their most vulnerable is sacred work. It is work that I feel humbled to do, especially working in the drug and alcohol field. When someone comes to my practice for support that’s exactly what they get, whether it’s doing a series of sessions with me or referring to a different service or counsellor. At the end of the day, it’s all about what is best for you and your needs.