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How Do Counseling Sessions Work?

If it is your first time seeking a therapist, you might be curious (even a little worried) about how a session will look. What do they do? Will they expect me to cry? Will they tell me how to fix my problems?

It is understandable if you are experiencing some confusion or hesitation before booking your first appointment. There are many misconceptions about how therapy works. Many mainstream representations of therapy are often exaggerated, leaving people who are in need of mental health support nervous to commit to receiving the help they deserve.

Read through this overview to get a realistic idea of what your counseling sessions will look like.

The First Session

Generally, your first session will consist of you meeting your therapist, and them asking you questions about what brought you there. What is bothering you? What made you seek out therapy? Likely, they will not ask many more questions than that, so they can get sense of what you are struggling with.

If they do ask more specific questions, they will just be to get a holistic view of you as a person. What was your family like growing up? How is your job? How is your current living situation? How involved are you in your community? And so on. Your answers will paint a full picture of your life for the counselor so that they can identify areas where you might need to invest more energy or healing.

Sometimes, before your first in-person session, your counselor will schedule a 10-minute intake call to determine if they are well-suited to give you the treatment you need. The same goes for the initial in-person session, too. If, at the end it is determined you’re a good fit, you will book a second session with them. If not, they will refer you to another person who can better provide you the help that you deserve.

Subsequent Sessions

The sessions that follow will be focused on identifying problems as they arise, and then finding ways to build coping skills. You will continue to share your thoughts, experiences, and feelings.

How structured the dialogue between you and your therapist is depends on their personal style as well as the type of therapy they practice. But what is true among all therapists is that they are not coaches. They will not spend the sessions telling you what to do; rather, they will work with you to come to your own realizations about your behavior and the decisions as to what to do about it.

They will offer advice on how to understand your own thoughts and behavior, but generally it is not in the practice of counseling to make decisions for you, or offer explicit advice. Your therapist will work with you to decide how the time is best used together, whether it is building cognitive behavior skills or processing trauma.

How Does This Work Online?

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Working with a counselor online, your sessions will work very similarly to how they would in person. The only difference is that, instead of being in your counselor’s office, you are able to connect with them from the comfort and privacy of your own home. You can relax with your pet as you chat with your counselor, working through your concerns and receiving support on how to address them healthfully.

If your sessions take place online, you might work via video chat, phone chat, or you have the option to communicate via text chat; whichever is more comfortable for you. But, what will be the same in your sessions, regardless of the way you connect with your counselor, is that they will be able to provide you deep support as you navigate your way to wellness and stability.