Nervous About Starting Individual Counseling? Here’s What to Expect

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So you’re thinking about starting individual counseling...

If you’ve never experienced a counseling session before, you might be a bit apprehensive.

Oftentimes, the uncertainty of going to counseling is more about the fear of the unknown and not knowing what to expect than anything else. When you’re more familiar with the process of counseling, it  can help alleviate some of the pre-session anxiety and help you feel more comfortable during the first few sessions. Your experience will differ depending on the counselor or the practice you choose, but here are a few things you can expect from a first counseling session.

Once you’ve found a counselor you want to work with, it can be a good idea to prepare for the experience. On our website, we’ve included a specific page to help our clients know what to expect, from how to go about scheduling an appointment to what to do when you arrive for the first counseling session. Check out your counselor’s website to see if they provide this information. If they don’t, you can always call and ask.


There can be a lot of nerves involved with finding your counselor’s office, arriving on time, and waiting for your first session to begin. When you arrive, give yourself some time to settle in to the space and take some deep breaths. Some counseling offices have a receptionists who will guide you through the process, but many counselors simply share an office and waiting area with other providers. If there is no one there to check in with, take a seat and make yourself comfortable. Many waiting rooms will have refreshments like coffee, tea, or water so you can help yourself. Sit back and relax! Your counselor will meet you when it’s time for your appointment.

Client paperwork can vary, and each counselor has their own way of doing things, but one thing you can be sure of is for your counselor to review their informed consent document. This document informs you of your counselor’s credentials, how they approach the counseling process, limits to confidentiality, and other important info your counselor might want you to know. Take the time to read over this document and note any questions you might have. You’ll review it verbally at the start of your first session and will have a chance to discuss any questions or concerns you may have.


After reviewing informed consent and taking care of any other housekeeping items, it’s time to dive in. The purpose of the first counseling session is really about making sure it’s the right fit for you and to get to know one another. The counselor will typically lead by asking you questions about your life, who you are, and what you like. You’re building a new relationship with your counselor, and it’ll take some time to get to know one another. Your counselor will likely also want to talk about why you’re seeking counseling and what you hope to gain from the experience.

You may have some fear about feeling overcome with emotion or crying. Try not to worry too much about this, your counselor is comfortable with tears and wants to create a safe place to express any painful emotions you’re experiencing. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it can be a release to let out a build-up of emotions. Your counselor is there to help you learn to navigate and become more comfortable with vulnerability.

Don’t forget, you can always reach out to your counselor beforehand to ask any questions you may have. Each counseling practice is different and has it’s own way of doing things, but we want you to know that it’s not as scary as it may seem.