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First time in counseling? Not sure what to expect? This might help.

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Starting therapy can sometimes be scary or intimidating or any of the emotions you may be feeling about it. They are all valid, and trust me, you are not alone in those feelings. So, it might ease some of your anxiety to know what counseling is and what to expect. Below I have added a definition of counseling and what should be expected out of the first few session of counseling. And some tips to finding the right counselor for you.

What is counseling?

According to the American Counseling Association, counseling is defined as, "a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals." Counseling involves helping people make needed changes in ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving, and is a goal-based collaborative process, involving a non-judgmental, supportive counselor who works with a client in telling his or her story, setting viable goals, and developing strategies and plans necessary to accomplish these goals. For some people this process takes a small amount of time, in some cases as little as one or two sessions; for others, the process may last longer.

An extremely important part of counseling is confidentiality, which means that the information discussed in session will be accessible only by you and your counselor, with a few exceptions.

Counseling should be a safe, non-judgmental and confidential space for you to work through problems and issues that you have experienced in your life that may be overwhelming and burdening you now.

What to expect when you begin counseling as a new client.

Confidentiality and any exceptions to those as well as your rights and responsibilities in counseling should be explained at the beginning of treatment. This is something that will be reiterated over the course of treatment. You will then be asked several questions to inform the counselor of your personal history to help the counselor get to know you better. Just like any relationship, this may take more than one session. Eventually over the course of therapy you will begin defining goals and creating a plan that best suits your needs in order to achieve those goals. Different therapists will use different modalities when helping clients such as CBT, for example. The process of therapy is challenging and that is something that should be expected. You may have homework to help continue your work outside of sessions. Sometimes the thought of starting therapy can be scary or intimidating and it may help knowing what to expect. Your therapist should be able to answer any questions you may having regarding the counseling process.

It is also helpful to know that every counselor is different, so if you start counseling and don't feel like you click with the counselor IT IS OK to talk with your therapist about this or find another therapist that might better fit your needs. A good therapist will understand and support your decision. It's kind of like trying out a new style of clothing, if it doesn't work for you then you go to a different store and try another style that works better until you find the right one.

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