What To Expect In A Counseling Session

By Robert Porter

Updated May 17, 2019

Reviewer Kristen Hardin

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Signing up for counseling can be beneficial for a variety of different reasons. A professional counselor can help you when you are suffering from various mental health conditions. They are also capable of providing you with specialized counseling in many areas. If you need relationship counseling, job counseling, or substance abuse counseling, you can turn to a dedicated counselor who has experience and education in that area. A counselor is also someone who you talk to that will give you objective feedback and will be nonjudgmental and unbiased. You also do not have to have a mental health disorder to benefit from counseling. Many seek counseling because they are going through a difficult life challenge or transition and benefit from a professional's guidance and support.

Some people get really nervous about going into a counseling session. If you have never been to see a counselor before, then you likely have little idea what to expect or you may wonder if it will be like what you have seen on television. You may be worried about whether or not the interactions are going to be awkward or intimidating and that can be anxiety provoking. It is important to try to relax and to realize that this is a very normal fear and there are ways to prepare to reduce that anxiety. Read further for some information on what you can generally expect in an initial counseling session.

Your Counselor Will Get to Know You

Your counselor may send you some forms before the first session or ask you to come to your appointment early to complete forms, just as a new doctor usually does. These forms will likely contain information about the counselor's practice, confidentiality and privacy information, and some assessment questions.

During your first counseling session, your counselor is going to take some time to get to know you and you will also be getting to know the counselor and his or her style. Many experts agree that more important than the experience and background of the counselor is the rapport between the counselor and the client. You want to be able to feel comfortable while speaking with the counselor and sharing information. Rapport can take time to build so it is important to give your counselor more than one session to determine if it is a good fit or not.

You will likely be asked questions about your life and your background. This could include things such as your occupation, your academic background, and what your hobbies are. Aside from general questions, the counselor will also ask about your life situation. Questions about your relationships will come up, and all of your answers will help them to gain an understanding of your life.

All of these questions are necessary so that they can come to know you and make an initial assessment and plan how best to help. Initial sessions are often more about discovering the presenting problems that have led you to seek counseling rather than immediately jumping into deeper issues that are present. So even if you don't feel noticeably different or better after your first session, it does not at all indicate that you will not have a successful treatment episode with that counselor.

You, Will, Discuss Why You Are Seeking A Counselor And Your Issues

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Of course, the counselor is also going to want to hear in your words the reasons why you are seeking counseling. Even if these issues are not discussed in complete detail during the first session, they will be addressed in-depth at a later session. You determine what you want to share and work on and the level and pace that you feel comfortable. Do not feel that you have to tell your counselor all of your deepest secrets or anything that you are not ready to share.

Being able to talk openly about your reasons for seeking counseling is important. You may also be asked about certain causes of triggers for problems that you are experiencing. For example, some people suffer from severe stress and anxiety due to having very demanding careers. If this is the case, then your counselor may wish to discuss some of the challenging aspects of your job to get a greater picture of why these issues are happening.

It will be a thorough conversation that will expand over time. Your initial visit will be the beginning, and the discussions about your issues will be elaborated on in the future sessions. You may also come to realize some problems that are beneath the surface that you were not aware of until going through the session.

Your Symptoms Will Be Discussed

Your symptoms are also going to be discussed in detail. Sometimes people do get nervous talking about their symptoms. If this is a problem for you, then the counselor will try to put you at ease and will do things at a pace that is comfortable for you. You need to tell the counselor how you are feeling and what is happening when you go through anxiety symptoms or depression problems.

These symptoms often have an impact on many areas of your life and functioning. The counselor may wish to discuss how your anxiety or depression is carrying over into other aspects of your life such as sleep, work, health, and relationships.

Try To Be Open And Honest

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Everyone feels embarrassed sometimes, and it may not always be easy to be completely honest. You might have the urge to lie or avoid answering certain questions with complete accuracy. The problem is that when you do not tell the truth to your counselor, the session is not going to be as effective. You will not be able to make true breakthroughs if the counselor does not know what is going on. It is perfectly okay if you are not ready to talk about something, but instead of being evasive about it, just tell you, counselor, you are not ready at this time.

Try to remember that your counselor is not judging you. Your counselor talks to people about extremely private and personal matters every day. Your counselor wants to create a safe environment for you to talk about hard things and that can take some time for you to feel comfortable to share certain things, and that is okay.

Also, your counselor is ethically bound to keep what you say confidential, except for certain situations which will be in your paperwork and your counselor should go over these exceptions with you. The limitations to confidentiality vary by state, but in general, are: if you are a danger to yourself or someone else, your counselor would be responsible to get you the appropriate help, and counselors are mandated reporters for child abuse and elder abuse and exploitation. But in general, everything is confidential. Your counselor cannot even tell anyone that she is seeing you unless you sign a consent for release of information. Try to not get overly anxious about this and if you have any questions or concerns, please address them with your counselor.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions

You should never be afraid to ask questions either. If you have any concerns about the counseling process or questions about how you are feeling, then you should speak up. Your counselor would much rather know that you are not connecting or getting better than for you to cancel your next session and never come back. You can talk to your counselor about anything that you want to and you can expect professional and objective feedback and suggestions.

When you take the time to properly engage with your counselor, it ensures that your counseling session is going to be that much more successful. Try to maintain this level of commitment throughout your time in counseling and your problems so that you get the most you can from your counseling experience. Remember too, that progress can be uncomfortable. You may be talking about things that you don't feel safe talking to other people about or maybe something you haven't told anyone else. It is your counselor's job to help you make progress, not to always make you feel better at that moment. Growth and positive change start with the discomfort. Just as you do not build muscle and endurance without challenging workouts, the same is true for counseling.

Online Counseling May Be A Good Fit

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Many people prefer online counseling options instead of going out to see a counselor in person. If you are a little bit shy or nervous, then online counseling options are more likely to set you at ease. The counseling sessions can be just as therapeutic and successful as the ones that you can experience outside of your home. You will simply have more control over the times you will have the counseling sessions.

It is certainly a convenient option for many people. If you are a busy individual who works a lot or has other responsibilities, then this may make the most sense for you. You can seek out counseling on your time and get the results that you need. All types of counseling are available online, so this should be a good option to consider no matter what it is that you need help with.

You can go over to https://www.betterhelp.com/online-therapy/ to learn more about the process of online counseling. You will be able to meet with a skilled counselor at a time that is convenient for you. You will have access to high-quality counseling and therapy without the need to leave your home. It is also a perfect option for those who wish to seek counseling but don't necessarily need to have live sessions. BetterHelp's platform also allows for exchanging messages as a primary form of communication between you and your counselor if that is something that interests you.

Signing up for online counseling today can set you on the path toward healing. If you want to alleviate your mental health symptoms, then online counseling is a great option for your needs.


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