After the first appointment… what now?

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You’ve completed the consultation and intake appointment. Often, clients want to know “What’s next?” What are regular sessions like?

Know that this will differ from counselor to counselor. We’ve all got our own styles and way we do things. It can also be influenced by the counseling theory we use for understanding what helps people. This is speaking from my general experiences as a client as well as drawing on my own style as a counselor. I meet with clients for 45-60 minutes per session. Sessions usually occur once a week, especially in the very beginning. (If more frequent meetings are necessary, that’s something to talk about in that first or second session, to see if this is what is most appropriate for you. If not, your counselor should help you find resources.)

So, the intake questions are answered, now what?

For me as a counselor, the intake gave me a framework to begin thinking about what may best serve your needs. I’ll check in during that second (or maybe third) session if we’re on the same page on what you’re looking for from counseling. If it is, we dive into the work together.

Oftentimes, clients will come in and I’ll ask how things have been going. What’s been of note? What’s stuck out from the work we’ve been doing? Often, there are explorations we would’ve talked about in earlier sessions (things to be curious about or tools to try out in your daily life), and I’ll check in about that.

I work from a “client-centered” perspective, which means what matters to you matters to me. At times, I may refocus us back on your goals; often, I find that what people bring into the room with them is related to what they want to work on. I rarely say, “This is what we’ll work on today,” unless we’ve previously discussed working in that way. Rather, I want to create space where you bring up what is relevant, what is most pressing.

I often get asked, “Do I have to talk about x, y, or z?” (the past, my family, whatever). I don’t force anyone to talk about anything – this is your counseling, after all. If things may seem related, I may ask, but you’re in charge of how much or how little you say about it. If there are things in the past that are coming up in the present, we can talk about how it’s affecting you right now, but not necessarily go into detail about the past if you choose not to. Sometimes, staying in the Right Now gives us more to work with and new ways to do things.

We can’t change the past, but we can try out new ways of responding, right?

(I realized I have more to say about this, so I’ll talk more about this next week – that balance of discomfort because of change and the comfort of trust.)

For me as a counselor, this is what we work on. As you come in and have less to say, or we reach your goals, or you find that maybe it’s not working for you – it’s time to talk about what happens then. Check back this weekend to learn about “Okay, I think I’m at a good place. What now?”

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