What to expect in your first counselling session

Making the decision to begin counselling is a positive step and can offer support to help you find ways to move towards a positive mental health recovery.

Your therapist can help you gain a better understanding of your feelings and thought processes, and find your own solutions to problems, but they won't usually give advice or tell you what to do.

Counselling sessions are also confidential, so you can talk about things you might not feel comfortable discussing with anyone else.

It’s normal to experience nerves, anxiety, fear, excitement and hope, as well as many other thought processes. What will my counsellor be like? Will they understand how I’m feeling?

We take a look at what to expect when starting on your counselling journey.

The assessment

At Breathe, you are required to attend a 30 minute assessment with our Head Counsellor before your counselling sessions start. During the assessment you will be asked certain questions about you and your life. This information ensures you are assigned with the most suitable counsellor, best matched to your needs.

The first counselling session

Sessions last for 50 minutes, and take place in a quiet room with just two of you present.  At your appointment, you'll be encouraged to talk about your feelings and emotions without any judgment or criticism.

Your counsellor will ask you questions that will help them gain a deeper understanding of the issues important to you. This can include:

  • Your relationships
  • Your childhood
  • Your emotions
  • Your thoughts
  • Your behaviour
  • Situations or events you find difficult
  • What has brought you to counselling at this specific moment in your life
  • Finding out what your goals are for counselling

Try to be open and honest about your feelings. A lot will be going through your head in this first session. Listen to your own reactions and feelings, and share them with the counsellor - you’ll both learn from these insights.


There will be some paperwork to fill out. Some counsellors will have specific goal measurements via a questionnaire sheet – comparing feelings now and then again at the end of your sessions.

You will also be required to sign a contract. This will include factors such as confidentiality, privacy, time boundaries, what to do if you can’t attend a session and situations when they may be required to disclose information about you.

The counselling contract doesn’t mean you are contracted to carry on with counselling, you are free to leave at any time. If you do start to feel that perhaps this is the wrong time for you for counselling, or perhaps you might like to try a different counsellor, it can be really beneficial to talk to your counsellor about how you are feeling.

Ask questions

What do you want to know from your counsellor? Is it important for you to know how they work? What will they expect from you? Does your idea of what counselling is, match up with how they work?

That first counselling session is also for you to consider your counsellor. Do you like them? You may not be able to answer that straight away, but trust your instincts. The relationship between the client and counsellor is central to the ongoing sessions and where a greater understanding of your concerns can be achieved.

The counselling journey

Counselling can be a journey of self-discovery and it can be life changing experience, but it can also be hard work, emotional and challenging. 

It is important to attend your first session with realistic expectations. Therapy is not a quick fix - it is a process and with a strong relationship with your counsellor, it can be a successful tool towards a positive way of living.

We provide counselling for individuals and couples on a short or long term basis.  This means you may either engage in counselling for as long as you require or choose to be allocated a set amount of solution focused sessions with specific goals in mind.

If you feel counselling could help you then contact us for more information.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Cardiff CF24 & Swansea SA6
Written by Platfform for Change
Cardiff CF24 & Swansea SA6

👀Limited time offer - 50% off your first initial appointment. We have a large team of experienced, compassionate counsellors who can work with people facing all kinds of challenges. Online, over the phone or face to face in Cardiff or Swansea. Whether there’s a specific challenge you&#...

Show comments

Find the right counsellor or therapist for you

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals