I’ve been lucky enough to have several new clients walk through my door recently and it’s gotten me reflecting on first counselling sessions. First sessions are actually some of my favourite meetings. That may seem surprising, as I’m often meeting people at some of their lowest moments, but I find it interesting to meet new people and to hear their stories. First meetings often illicit very strong nerves and a wide range of emotions, such as upset, sadness, anger, and hesitancy (just to name a few). There is no typical first session, no typical emotions to feel in that first meeting.
It makes me think back to the first time that I sat on a counsellor’s couch as a client. To put it bluntly, I was a mess. No really, it was messy – lots of crying led to lots of tissues being used. There was lots of anxiety and fear. Oh and many futile attempts to appear “okay.” I so desperately wanted to be “normal” that I was even trying to hide my feelings from the person who was supposed to help me. Obviously I failed miserably on that front — it’s pretty hard to seem okay with tears running down your face. To my surprise, it became clear pretty early on that my counsellor could handle my emotions in a kind, gentle, and completely non-judgemental manner. I don’t know what I was expecting or hoping for, but that counsellor was exactly what I needed at that moment in time.
First sessions really are your opportunity to ask questions, feel out the counselling process, and to decide if you and the counsellor will be a right fit. What the heck does that even mean – “a right fit?” Well, similar to trying out a new pair of shoes, you’ve got to try out a new counsellor. After the first session, you can ask yourself questions like these: did you feel comfortable? Did it feel like you and the counsellor were on the same page? Were you happy with what you experienced in the session? If you answer yes to those questions, then it’s likely that you and the counsellor have the makings for a right fit. If you answered no to any of those questions, perhaps you may want to test out another counsellor. Not every counsellor will fit your needs and not every counsellor will give you that instant feeling of connection. It’s really important that you feel a connection, sense of safety, and a lack of judgement when you are with your counsellor…in fact it can be the most important factor in successful counselling!