What To Expect In Your First Counseling Session

Seeking help and choosing to attend counseling is a positive investment towards achieving health and happiness. Just because you receive counseling does not automatically mean that your life is in a crisis or that something is terribly wrong with you. People can benefit from counseling for something as simple as seeking guidance for what degree or career to pursue.

Whatever the reason may be, knowing what to expect in your first counseling session will help you be more comfortable. Through this, you can make the most out of your experience.

In your first session, the therapist will want to get to know you better so that he/she can make an initial assessment of your situation. Each therapist will have a different style. However, you will be typically asked specific questions about you and your life. Some questions that the therapist might ask include:

Why you sought counseling.

There is probably a particular issue or concern that prompted you to seek counseling. The therapist has to understand why you sought counseling before he/she can engage with you and get to the depths of your issue or concern.

Your personal history.

Some therapists do the first session by asking for your background. This will help them understand your childhood or your family situation growing up. This is important because your family system plays an important role in shaping your identity.

Your current situation.

Other therapists do the first session by getting an assessment of your current situation. The therapist would want to understand your present circumstances. This will include information about your current family situation and other symptoms of the problem that you reported. For example, your problem might be causing difficulty at work.

The therapist will use this information to understand your problem better. And, while he may make a diagnosis at the end of your first visit, it’s more likely that a diagnosis will take a few more sessions.

Actively Participate

Just like any relationship, a therapist-client relationship requires two active participants to work. Counseling is a two-way process. Here are some things you can do to contribute to the success of your counseling session:


To get the most out of your counseling, you need to prepare. Preparation here means having clear goals and expectations of what you want to get out of the experience. Express these goals and expectations to your therapist.

Even before you get to the session, learn how to describe your present life situation and how you feel about it. One way you can learn this is by practicing. Write down the reasons you’re seeking help. Read out loud the list that you make. Hearing yourself say these reasons will help you prepare your goals for the counseling and articulate yourself to your therapist.


Your therapist spent years of training so that they can help you better understand yourself. Using counseling skills, your therapist can help you better understand your thoughts, feelings, choices, and reactions to the events around you. But they won’t be able to do that if you don’t communicate with them. Contrary to popular belief, therapists don’t and can’t read minds.

Counseling is all about you. Communicate your thoughts and feelings openly and honestly. Share your reactions with your therapist. Ask questions. You won’t be comfortable with something that you don’t understand. So feel free to ask questions about the counseling process and about things you don’t understand.

Be Realistic.

You are asked to have goals and expectations, but be sure that these are realistic. Counseling is not a quick fix to your problems. It is a process where the therapist guides you towards resolving your issues and achieving your own goals. This process will take time and will largely depend on your relationship with your therapist.

A Note on Expense

A lot is said about the cost of therapy. Therapy is indeed expensive, but it is an investment in yourself, your health, and your life. Besides, there are other services that are expensive that aren’t questioned as much, such as hiring an attorney for legal services.

If cost is an important factor for you in finding a therapist, you could ask your insurance company if there are any therapists considered in-network.

Based on Materials from Psych Central

Photo Sources: Pg Sebastian, iStock, Pixabay