What is counselling and what can the client expect from the first session?
From my years of experience as a counsellor, I realised that many people who come to counselling the first time, do not really know what to expect of the counselling process. Counselling is not what we see on tv where the client is lying on a couch and the counsellor is sitting opposite them giving them advice and asking how they are feeling.
Counselling is a process in which a trained professional, known as a counsellor, works with an individual, couple or group of people to explore, understand and address personal, emotional, psychological, or social difficulties. Counselling typically involves talking about one’s thoughts, feelings, behaviours and relationships and trauma in a confidential non-judgemental setting.
What is counselling not?
- Counselling is not giving advice. Advice is viewed as being judgemental and assumes the client needs to be told what to do.
- Counselling is not instant. There is no instant solution to the client’s problems, counselling is a process that needs to be embraced with patience.
- Counselling is not judgemental. The counselling room is a safe space where the client can explore their past and present hurt.
- Counselling is not the client talking and the counsellor listening. Counselling is a process of collaboration. The counsellor will work with the client to help them discover solutions and help them to get direction for their life.
- Counselling is not indulgent. Counselling is not a pass-time for people who have spare time and money. Counselling is hard work and can be a very emotional process (2).
What can you expect from your first counselling session?
- Each counsellor will have their own way how they will approach the first counselling session.
- The first part of the session will focus on getting to know each other and building trust and rapport.
- The counsellor will spend time to establish the client’s needs and what therapeutical approach need to be followed so that you can get the best help for the reason the client came to counselling (1).
To understand the client’s need for counselling the counsellor might ask the following questions:
- Have you been to counselling before?
- Various questions about family history and mental health.
- Questions about work life and homelife.
- History of suicide and self-harm.
- What do you want to get from counselling? (1).
Is counselling confidential?
The Australian law states that counsellors must keep most of what is said in counselling confidential. The counsellor should talk about confidentiality during the first counselling session (3).
Confidentiality can be broken to protect a person from serious harm. This private information can be disclosed to someone like parents or carer, if client is underage, Family or Community services, a court, the police, or a paramedic. The counsellor will only break confidentiality if the situation is very serious, and they feel they don’t have a choice (3). Before a counsellor breaks confidentiality, the counsellor will discuss it first with the client.
In conclusion counselling is a therapeutic process that can be short term or long term due the individual’s needs and goals. Some of the common reasons why a person may seek counselling are depression, anxiety, relationship problems, stress, anger management, trauma, addiction, grief and loss and personal growth and development.
1. Good Therapy, What will happen at my first therapy session? https://www.goodtherapy.org
2. My Mind Oasis, 2017, what is counselling not, https://www.mymindoasis.com 3. Reachout, Confidentiality and healthcare, https://au.reachout.com
Author: Corey Human, B Th (Hons), M Counselling, Dip Youth Work, Dip Youth Justice, Dip Couns, Dip Pentecostal Theology, Dip Ministry.
For nearly 20 years, Corey has been providing counselling to adolescents, adults and couples experiencing various challenges such as depression, anxiety, addictions and relationship struggles. He can provide counselling in both English and Afrikaans.