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The first counselling session

Nurturing

IT GOES TWO WAYS You are also deciding on whether the counsellor is right for you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Mental Health
Jannah Walshe

You have done the hard part. You made the call and booked a first counselling session. Now what? How do you know what to ask in that first meeting?
Remember that your counsellor is using that first session to work out if counselling is right for you, but you need to work out if they are the right counsellor for you too. To do this you will need to ask some questions. Your counsellor will be well used to this, so don’t hold back, ask the questions that are important to you.
I would encourage you to ask as many questions as you can, and if you forget any, ask them the next time. To get you started, let’s look at some of the types of questions that you could ask.

Practicals
The first session is the perfect time to broach all the practical stuff, which can save much confusion later on, such as the following:
Length of counselling: How long is each session? And for how long do you imagine the course of counselling will last?
Cost: What are your fees? Is there a sliding scale? What happens if I am unable to pay one week? Is there a charge for missed sessions?
Appointment protocols: How can I book appointments, and what happens if I’m running late or need to cancel or reschedule? What is the best way to contact you to rearrange appointments?
Confidentiality: How can you assure my confidentiality? Do you ever have to break confidentiality and in which circumstances? Will I know if you break confidentiality?

Background
Remember also that no appropriately qualified counsellor will have an issue with you asking about their qualifications and experience. You are about to trust this person with the most difficult aspects of your life and the more vulnerable parts of you. It is so important for you to get a sense of whether they are the right person for you to share these things with. Some potential questions to help you ascertain this might include:
Affiliations: Do you belong to a professional association and, if so, which one?
Background: What training and qualifications do you have?
Experience: Do you have specialised training and/or experience in working with the issue I am dealing with?
Specialties: What type of counselling do you do? Does the counsellor do mostly talk therapy or include some other tools, such as visualising, hypnosis, artwork, bodywork and so on.

Road ahead
The first session with a counsellor will be different from future visits. The initial visit is a time for you and your counsellor to get to know each other and get an idea of how to proceed.
Keep in mind too that psychotherapy usually requires multiple visits, so don’t expect any instant solutions to your problems on that first day. Counselling is not a quick fix. It is about equipping you with life-long solutions and developing your own internal counsellor.

Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo. More information about Jannah can be found at www.jannahwalshe.ie.