10 Things to Expect in Your First Counseling Session

Have you ever wondered what happens in the first counseling session? I thought you might, so I wrote this article about it.

The first session is an assessment, not counseling per se. I need to get to know you before jumping into the counseling phase. I ask a lot of questions and listen closely to your answers. I want to understand you as a unique individual. You may also ask me questions to determine if we are a good fit.

1. I’ll review your intake questionnaire with you and get a crystal clear picture of your goals.
2. We’ll discuss where you are now and what past factors are affecting your current life. This will take more than one session, but I want to get an overview in the first session. We won’t have time to go into lots of details.
3. We look at the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
4. We begin to design a plan for moving from “here” to “there.”  Here’s an analogy: If you were going to build a house, you would begin with a blueprint. We start designing the blueprint in the first session. It often takes more than one session to create the blueprint. If the plan is not prepared adequately, the success of the project will be inefficient and more likely to fail. I ask for your patience during this phase. This is the first step to help you achieve your goals.
5. We’ll talk about what has worked and what has not worked in the past so I can help you more efficiently.
6. You’ll tell me how you cope with stressors so I can help you respond more effectively.
7. I’ll begin to learn about your personality and help you understand yourself better.
8. We’ll start to build rapport, the most essential element in the counseling relationship.
9. At the end of the first meeting, we will both determine if we feel like we are a good match. If not, I’ll do my best to give you referrals.
10. If we both choose to proceed, I’ll gather more information in the second session. If we are finished reviewing your intake questionnaire, we’ll develop a treatment plan. We are still in the planning stage so please be patient. After the “blueprint” is completed, we’ll jump into the counseling phase.

If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to address them. I like to have open communication. No question is too small. I want to serve you in the best way possible so I need to know what you are thinking, feeling and wanting.

These situations are not a good fit for me. I’ll do my best to give you referrals.
• Alcohol and/or drug abuse
• Current domestic violence
• Suicidal or homicidal ideation or attempts
• Severe mental illness
• Borderline personality disorder
• Untreated bipolar disorder

*** I do not work with clients who are involved with legal cases where I may be asked to submit my records or to testify in court. I do not write reports to justify absence from work, nor do I write disability reports, workman’s compensation reports or legal reports of any kind. I do not work with child custody cases.

Click here to read about my ideal clients for individual counseling.

Click here to read about couples counseling.

I hope this article has answered most of your questions about what to expect in the first session. I’m here to help you create the most meaningful and fulfilling life possible.

If you’d like a complimentary 10-minute phone call to see if we are a good fit, please click here to complete the Contact Form.

Benita A. Esposito, MA is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Blairsville and Atlanta, Georgia. She is also a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in North Carolina, and she offers life coaching and spiritual counseling around the globe. She counsels adults who experience anxiety, stress, trauma, PTSD and grief. Specializations include highly sensitive people and couples counseling.

Click here for credentials.

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Emergency Hotlines & Resources

If you, or someone you know, experiences a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Or call these helplines.

National Suicide Hotline
1-800-273- TALK (8255). Call if you or someone you know: Threatens to or talks about hurting or killing themselves. Feels hopeless. Feels rage or uncontrolled anger. Feels trapped like there is no way out. Engages in reckless behavior. Increases alcohol or drug use. Withdraws from friends and family. Feels anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep. Encounters dramatic mood changes. Sees no reason for living.

The Disaster Distress Helpline
1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster.

Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

 

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

Suggested Resources

  • What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families
    Created for family members of people with alcohol abuse or drug abuse problems. Answers questions about substance abuse, its symptoms, different types of treatment, and recovery. Addresses concerns of children of parents with substance use/abuse problems.
  • Alcohol and Drug Addiction Happens in the Best of Families
    Describes how alcohol and drug addiction affect the whole family. Explains how substance abuse treatment works, how family interventions can be a first step to recovery, and how to help children in families affected by alcohol abuse and drug abuse.
  • It’s Not Your Fault (NACoA) (PDF | 12 KB)
    Assures teens with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs that, “It’s not your fault!” and that they are not alone. Encourages teens to seek emotional support from other adults, school counselors, and youth support groups such as Alateen, and provides a resource list.
  • It Feels So Bad: It Doesn’t Have To
    Provides information about alcohol and drug addiction to children whose parents or friends’ parents might have substance abuse problems. Advises kids to take care of themselves by communicating about the problem and joining support groups such as Alateen.
  • After an Attempt: A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member After Treatment in the Emergency Department
    Aids family members in coping with the aftermath of a relative’s suicide attempt. Describes the emergency department treatment process, lists questions to ask about follow-up treatment, and describes how to reduce risk and ensure safety at home.
  • Family Therapy Can Help: For People in Recovery From Mental Illness or Addiction
    Explores the role of family therapy in recovery from mental illness or substance abuse. Explains how family therapy sessions are run and who conducts them, describes a typical session, and provides information on its effectiveness in recovery.
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Intimacy and Deep Emotional Healing

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Couples Counseling FAQs

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Q: What’s the success rate of your Couples Counseling programs?

I use two proven research-based Couple Therapy programs: Emotionally Focused Therapy and Gottman Couple Therapy Method. Research proves these approaches help couples build (or rebuild) the bonds of love and connection. 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements. Read more

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Only 15-20% of the population is highly sensitive, which means that 80-85% of the population is not wired the same way. High sensitivity is not a flaw. It is not a pathology. In fact, Elaine Aron refers to highly sensitive people as the “priest” class of the culture. They are artists, poets, counselors, clergy, teachers, healers, compassionate leaders and some of the creative thinkers on the planet. Read more

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Healing Abuse. Susan’s Breathwork Story.

A bright 30-something woman, Susan vowed that she would never return to her abusive ex-boyfriend. But two weeks ago, she did.

She was driving down the interstate while he sat in the passenger seat. They were traveling to a concert in another city.  His rage flared into a frenzy.  She had seen this way too many times before. Read more

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What Jesus Wants for Christmas

gift-box-redI like to give people what they want, and one of the best ways to do that is to ask them.  So I asked Jesus what he wants for Christmas and this is what I heard him say.

Jesus:  First of all, I don’t need any gifts.  I have everything I want because I am one with God.  So please don’t feel that you need to get me anything.

Benita:  But I want to!  I want to show my love for you because my heart is overflowing with gratitude for who you are and what you have done for us on planet Earth.  You loved us so much that you incarnated to manifest a profound quality of love on Earth that had not been seen before. In only 30+ years you made such a difference here that people all over the world remember you and try to emulate.

Jesus: Please don’t emulate me. Remember when I told you “You can do all these things I do and more, because I go to the Father?” Read more

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