As counsellors and art therapists we’re in the business of offering people what they most want but also what they most fear.

Change!

For most, change is often hard and scary. It asks us to let go of what’s familiar and comfortable.

The first session, while offering powerful potential can bring fear and trepidation for the client and sometimes for an emerging therapist. Let’s face it, starting anything new can feel daunting. Meeting someone new takes courage.

When we enter the therapy arena, the beginning space often feels even more loaded.

So what should we aim for in that first ever session with a brand new client? Knowing what to focus on is so important but sometimes confusing.

In building my practice, I’m grateful to say I’ve rarely had a new client who doesn’t re-book and I’d like to share my recipe for getting the most out of that first ever session with a new client.

Here’s what’s worked for me.

I begin with reminding myself of the courage it’s taken this person to show up and step into the unknown.

My recipe includes 5 key ingredients each grown from the realisation that:-

– change is hard,

and

  • starting something new, with someone new is often scary and unsettling.

MAGIC INGREDIENTS LIST:

#1: Welcoming them into the space (physically and energetically). This happens not just with the words we say such as ‘welcome!’ But also by our actions, how we meet them at the door, bring them into the room and offer someone a chair. I want a person to feel genuinely welcome, that I am truly interested in meeting them and they have my full attention.

#2: Creating safety and reassurance. I do this through letting a person know what they share is confidential but also through grounding myself. I take time before they arrive to breath and connect inwards. If I feel calm, safe and open, it encourages them to feel this too.

#3: Establish connection through understanding and reflection.  I use tools such as taking time with the intake form to ask into anything important they’ve listed and I repeat their key words or phrases back to them. I do this in an open, curious and interested way and I ask if I’ve understood them correctly. This helps a person feel seen & heard by me and also themselves.

By not filling every space in the session with talking, we create room for contemplation & reflection. I pay close attention to the energetics by tuning into what is not said and the feeling-tone that’s unfolding between us.

#4: Maintaining a professional approach to build trust.  I dress in a professional manner and ensure the space is clean, comfortable and well organised. I may offer some insights into what a client says yet my focus is on  acknowledging any knowing, strength or wisdom a person shares with me.

# 5: Establish a pathway forward. Towards the end of our session, I ask the client how they feel about us working together?  Doing so, helps clarify expectations – theirs and mine – and secures commitment. Even if it’s simply booking their one next session.

I typically end the session by asking ‘what are you taking away from today?’ This solidifies their insights and is a reminder of the value of us working together.

In essence, my aim for a first ever session rests in creating a ‘feeling space,’ – one that’s filled with safety, warmth and connection – not a ‘doing space.’

The outcome and alchemy of these simple, magical ingredients is from that first important session, we can transform fear of change and uncertainly into hope and opportunity. We’re ready and even excited to step out of the therapeutic path together!

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