Your first counselling session -
how to prepare for therapy
Tips to make the most out of your first counselling session
Research suggests that the process of seeking help for personal issues is often slow, as there are a few mental and practical barriers to overcome. Initially, you may want to acknowledge ownership of the issue at hand. Perhaps, you may have tried repeatedly to fix it alone, yet ultimately, it becomes clear that some professional support is required. Once this decision is made, you start exploring options for help. Now that you are ready to receive help, you still have to both find the right person to trust and prepare for your first counselling session – which can feel daunting.
If you are lucky, you will have received a recommendation for a particular therapist, but unfortunately, many people don’t share this part of their life very often with others. So you search online and you find yourself confused by the many competing services who overwhelm you with their promising words and appealing images. So you take a chance and book someone.
You now wonder: “Will it work well for me?”
You do not have to be passively hopeful in your anticipation. Take a proactive approach and make the most out of your first counselling session.
Here are some tips that will help you prepare for your first therapy session.
- Environment – unlike face to face sessions, in online counselling you choose your own environment. It is convenient and usually easy to do. However, too often, clients may forget to consider which environmental conditions are best for good concentration. For the best outcome, choose a quiet place, free from distractions where you can sit straight while looking at a steady screen. Remember that the session is for you and about you. You invest time, money and most importantly, your emotions. Further, the good environment will convey to your counsellor how committed you are to the outcomes you hope to achieve through counselling.
- Equipment – Ensure that the equipment you are going to use is set up properly. Check any tech issues and troubleshoot them beforehand to reduce any distractions that may occur during the video session. The size of your screen will also make a difference. For the best outcome, use a computer or laptop because a larger screen is better for holding focus and concentration.
- Connectivity – Ensure that you’re not running into connectivity issues. We often see clients seeking a better position in the house for reception and this interferes with the flow of the video session. The stability and speed of your internet connection are very important for the quality of your session.
- Light – One of the challenges in online counselling is the non-verbal communication. Without proper lighting, you will compromise that aspect even further. A well-lit environment makes you more visible to your therapist, which helps them to observe your emotions, your body language, and your facial reactions. It enhances the communication between you and your therapist, resulting in a productive and professional counselling session.
- Backup Plan – Both, you and your counsellor will rely on a medium which is not 100% predictable. Prepare for unexpected events and think of a contingency plan to continue with the session if you run into any issues. E.g. keep a tablet or your smartphone close by.
- Expectations – Research tells us that your expectations are highly important in order to achieve a positive outcome. When you keep your intentions clear, you are already on the right path to a successful counselling session. With your goals in mind, it is a good idea to ask your counsellor by the end of the first session how they are going to help you. Be curious and try to understand their processes and tools. When you leave them you want to feel hopeful, even inspired, about the prospect of working with them.
- Openness – You don’t need to know how counselling works, you only need to participate as openly as you can. It might feel strange initially to share your vulnerabilities and secrets with a person you don’t know, but this is exactly how counselling is going to serve you best. Your chance to feel understood, accepted and supported is linked to how trusting and open you are with your counsellor.
- Evaluate – Take your first session as an opportunity to assess how you felt during the conversation, and how you connected with your counsellor’s personality and approach. Ultimately, success in counselling will largely depend on how you trust and respect them. In Counselling via Video, we ask clients to share their level of satisfaction on three aspects. See them here and consider using them for yourself.
Emotional support – You felt understood, cared for and engaged.
Useful input – You benefited from some relevant knowledge, enlightening perspectives, or useful tools and strategies.
Professionalism – Counsellor presents well on the screen, in an appealing environment, with perfect light, free from any distraction and is competent with the technology.
Online counselling is a great way to get professional help, especially if you don’t have access to in-person. However, there are some things under your control which you want to make sure are well catered for. To ensure that your sessions end up with good results, keep the above points fresh in your mind and focus on your healing and growth.
Still looking for help?
Our team of experienced psychologists at Rural Wellbeing are ready to help. Get in touch with us today.