Counseling can be a scary proposition for many people. The idea of going to a place to meet with someone you don't know, and to be expected to open up to that person about who you are and what is going on with you, is no easy task for most people. You want the experience to go well, but fear may hold you back. What might be helpful to keep in mind, is that the counselor by and large is often just as nervous to meet you. They want you to feel comfortable meeting with them, and they are trying to put their best foot forward in providing you with an experience that is warm, friendly, and done with an understanding that you might be scared of being judged or seen as crazy. Counselors are well trained, and many tend to understand what it is like to be a client because they have done their own work in seeing a therapist.
So in coming to therapy for the first time, one of the things you can do, is begin a conversation of what you expect from your counselor and what you need from them in the counseling relationship. This is your time, and since you are often paying for that time, you want your needs to be met by someone who will listen to you, and be guided by your concerns in working with you during the course of therapy. This conversation will also often involve the rules the therapist or counselor has in their practice, so that you know what is expected of you regarding payment, cancelling appointments, scheduling, and other issues. In this way, you and the counselor are developing your interaction, and establishing rapport - a connection, that can build trust and mutual respect.
Counselors want the best for their clients, and clients want a counselor who will listen. When you meet your counselor for the first time, make sure you let them know what you need to help you feel comfortable, and what you need during the course of therapy. The counseling relationship is stronger when there is open communication that is formed by both you and the counselor, working together to meet your mutually set goals.
Shawn Thomas Berthel M.S., is the owner of Life Path Counseling PLLC, and a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor. He lives in University Place, Washington.