What to expect for the first appointment:
Meeting with a counselor for the first time tends to be anxiety producing in and of itself, let alone the concerns one comes in the door with. As I share vulnerable pieces of myself to a complete stranger will they judge me? How much should I share? And many other questions which make it difficult to walk through the door the first time.
Whether you are just curious or a bit nervous in going to counseling the first time, I would like to take the unknown out of the equation for you…
Have you ever had the experience of telling someone there is something wrong with your car, it is making a troubling noise? And because they don’t hear it, they think there is something wrong with you and not your car? Then there is a person who will actually ride with you and eventually hear the noise you were talking about! You jump up and down for joy because someone believes you, you weren’t wrong and made to feel crazy.
Well, counseling is a very similar process. It is our job not to judge anyone, to ride with you on your journey until you arrive at the point of saying, “no wonder I feel and think they way I do”. Your are validated, not wrong and not crazy.
However, the noise is still in the car…
So, the next step is to figure out what is creating the noise in the car in order to fix it. Similar, we try to figure out what the noise in your life is about, so we can clear it out and you are riding peacefully along.
The difference is we work together instead of another person fixing the problem. Then maybe when something is going wrong, you can take a look, fix it or bring the car in again.
These next 11 steps can help to visualize how your first appointment may go:
- The initial dreaded paperwork. Check to see if the provider takes your insurance, has a sliding fee scale, etc. It may seem callous to write this first, but when you have made the decision to come it is frustrating when you find out in the end that you can’t see the counselor you had hoped for. It is very easy to say “forget it”.
- Most often, the paperwork can be filled out online and will save you time at the appointment. If not, no worries. Come 15 minutes early to fill it out. Sitting in the reception area can then give you a feel for the place. You have a chance to relax and not be overwhelmed.
- So, your counselor comes to the reception area. You meet. You may wonder if this person is going to judge me for what I tell them? We feel the same way too! We are human, also. We will be less anxious about it because we have experienced the situation many times. However, there is still an element of that for us, also.
- Remember, you are still in the driver seat. If the counselor is telling you why you have a noise instead of REALLY listening to you, then find a different counselor. You always have the right to discontinue counseling.
- It is our job not to judge and help you feel emotionally safe in counseling.
- The first time, we will listen a lot. We will ask questions to help clarify the facts, timelines, etc. You might even leave and not feel much relief.
- The goal of the first session is for you to have developed trust for us. The trust is built by us truly listening, giving you a genuine experience, and that your words, thoughts, and feelings are important and valued.
- Counseling is a shared reciprocal experience. Meaning, we do not only listen to you, your feelings resonate within us. You leave knowing “we get you” we REALLY understand.
- You know trust has begun to develop when you walk out the door and you have a feeling your counselor genuinely enjoyed meeting, looks forward to your return, despite whatever you have shared.
- Most often, everything you want to share probably won’t be shared during the initial session because we are getting to know you and you are getting to know us. Building a therapeutic (trusting) relationship takes time. So, you may not want to share everything the first time so you don’t leave feeling so vulnerable.
- Also, we are on this journey together. By the end of the first session, you and the counselor will have mapped out a direction. It will be a direction in which the counselor is competent to navigate and you feel confident is the best direction.