Improving Your Health and Wellbeing

Two Tips for Your First Appointment With a Counsellor

by Ernest Smith

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you have your first appointment with a counsellor.

Tell them right away if there is anything in the clinic's counselling room that bothers you

Before you start discussing your mental health in detail with the counsellor, you should tell them if there are any issues with the clinic's counselling room that you are likely to find distracting or distressing. For example, if your panic attack symptoms include profuse sweating and feeling overheated, then you might get panicky when you're in warm environments because you associate that uncomfortably hot feeling with this awful mental health issue. If this is the case and the counselling room's windows are closed and the radiator is switched on, you might want to ask the counsellor to open the window and lower the setting on the radiator. This could prevent your counselling session from being cut short as a result of you panicking.

Similarly, if you have a phobia and the subject of that phobia can be found in or near the room, then you might want to mention this. The counsellor might agree to close the blinds for your sessions — although if your counselling is aimed at overcoming this phobia, they may suggest practising opening the blinds and looking at the view during future sessions.

Be realistic about what is likely to happen during this first meeting

You must try to be realistic about how much you'll achieve during your first visit to the clinic's counsellor. It may take a while (certainly more than one session) for you to get comfortable with the counsellor and feel safe delving into private matters that may have contributed to the psychological condition you currently have.

During this first session, you should not focus on trying to solve your problems but should instead discuss what your mental health is like at the moment and tell them about any previous forms of therapy you've tried before. You may also want to share what outcome you'd like to work towards with the counsellor and let them know if there are any other problems you have that could interfere with your progress. For example, if you have money worries, this might not only affect your ability to pay for counselling, but it might also make it hard for you to work on achieving your mental health-related goals. This conversation will provide the counsellor with clarity about your aims and your circumstances, which will, in turn, get the counselling process off to a great start.