What to Expect During Your First Counseling Appointment: Reduce the Uncertainty About Attending Your First Session

You’ve either scheduled your first counseling appointment or considered making the first appointment, but you haven’t fully committed. Either way, I commend you for making your mental health a priority! Your mental health is vitally important, and attending counseling is one way to follow through with your commitment. This decision can be exciting and full of anticipation, and it is common for folks to experience nervousness, apprehension, and anxiety about starting counseling. One reason is the uncertainty about what to expect during the first appointment.

Feeling Nervous is Normal

It’s not just you. It’s a human thing. When starting something new, especially when meeting someone for the first time, it is common to feel nervous, anxious, or uneasy. These feelings are understandable when meeting with a counselor for the first time. You might think, “What if my counselor thinks I’m crazy or ridiculous? What if he says he can’t help me? What if it’s awkward or weird?” I would feel anxious and nervous, too!

Your Brain is Trying to Help

In fairness, your brain recognizes you are about to meet someone you’ve never met to discuss your concerns and struggles. Just the idea of doing this can be challenging and overwhelming. The thoughts and stories going through your mind are your brain’s way of preparing you by filling in the unknown. Your brain is doing its job. The mind’s default is the worst-case scenario. While anxious thoughts and feelings about attending your first counseling appointment are normal, you can reduce the unease by knowing what to expect.

What You Can Expect in Your First Session

1. A Safe and Comfortable Environment
This is one of the main goals (perhaps the most important goal) I have for a client’s first counseling appointment. If you do not experience comfort and safety in your first counseling session, it will be understandably difficult for you to share your main concerns and goals. You likely won’t return for a second session; thus, you lose the potential counseling benefit. I strive to provide a safe and comfortable first counseling session in the following ways:

  • Recognition that every client is unique and has different needs. With only a few exceptions, your first session can be what you need it to be. I work for you.
  • Privacy and confidentiality with clear instructions about limits and each of our roles in keeping your information safe
  • Clear instructions on my office location or how to access your virtual appointment
  • Clean, spacious, and inviting waiting area and office
  • I’ll ask permission before asking questions about potentially sensitive information

2. An Opportunity to Connect
Our first session will allow us to build an initial connection and foundation for trust. This expectation is an extension of creating a safe and comfortable environment. Starting counseling comes down to timing and fit. The first session is an opportunity to start a conversation about what’s important to you and what you need to know to gain familiarity with me (and vice versa). In this way, you can decide on our fitness to work together.

3. Questions and Review of Practice Policies
Before your first appointment, you will receive all practice paperwork to review and sign via the client portal. This allows more time during the first session to build a counseling relationship and discuss your primary concerns. However, it’s still important to briefly review some of the most important policies and procedures and to allow time for questions and clarification if needed. This is essential to building the trust and connection necessary to conduct quality work together. Most clients do not like surprises, especially from their counselor and counseling sessions. I want you to know what to expect from me and your counseling experience.

Nice session. Happy male client saying goodbye to counselor while sitting on the couch and smiling

4. An Opportunity to Share What Brought You to Counseling
Depending on your pace and comfort level, you can share a summary and examples of your main problem(s) and concern(s) during your first visit. I will listen, reflect, and check with you for understanding. I’ll also invite you to discuss your desired goals and outcomes. With your permission, I might ask clarifying questions or give you a questionnaire to help me better understand your struggle(s) and what you want to gain from counseling. Remember, this is the first session, and we can’t cover every detail. We can return to anything you share or add details in a future appointment.

5. Receive Initial Support and Direction
I want you to leave the first session feeling like the commitment and process was worth it. You can expect me to be supportive, encouraging, and empathetic. Many clients I work with express that simply experiencing the freedom and safety to begin sharing their stories provides initial relief. Depending on your circumstances and needs, I may offer specific recommendations or directions for you to consider between your first and second sessions. Similarly, I may teach a brief coping strategy you can use immediately.

6. Collaboration on Next Steps
At the end of your first counseling appointment, I’ll ask for your initial feedback, and we will discuss whether I’m the right fit for you. We’ll confirm your next appointment if I’m the right fit to help you achieve your desired outcomes. If we decide I’m not the right fit, or if it isn’t the right time for you to commit to counseling, I will provide you with a quality referral or considerations for when to reschedule. Either way, I’m here to help and support your needs.

Summary of Your First Appointment

The first counseling appointment will last about 50 minutes. We will start the counseling relationship by getting to know each other and discussing your primary concerns and counseling goals at a level and pace that’s comfortable for you. We will briefly review the most essential policies, and you can ask questions about the paperwork, the counseling process, or my approach. You can expect support and encouragement in a safe and comfortable environment. We will conclude your first session by collaborating on fit and scheduling.

Begin Counseling in Maysville, Kentucky Today!

The unease that comes with the uncertainty of a first counseling appointment is a normal human response. It is normal to feel a range of emotions, from excitement to anxiousness. I hope knowing what to expect in your first counseling session helps you feel more comfortable and confident. Even if you don’t schedule an appointment with me, this list may serve as a guide to help you connect with the right counselor. I’m so glad you are committed to your mental health goals!

I’d be honored to help if you want to start counseling today in Maysville, KY, or online anywhere across Kentucky. Please fill out the contact form or schedule your first appointment by emailing, calling, or requesting an appointment via the client portal.

Mental Health Services at Bryan Purcell Counseling

I provide effective mental health counseling in Maysville, KY, or online counseling anywhere in Kentucky. I specialize in helping church leaders and adults looking to break free from their struggles with perfectionism, not feeling good enough, anxiety, or harmful church or religious experiences. If you are ready to experience relief, I’m here to help!