The First Counselling Session With A New Client

The First Session

It is important to provide a safe environment for clients to attend. Many new clients will feel ill at ease when visiting a counsellor for the first time, so it is important to be both professional and welcoming. It can take a lot of courage for a client to admit they need help.

The counselling room should be quiet, uncluttered, private and not reflect the counsellor’s personality. It is important to not sit directly in front of the client (a 5 o’clock position to the client is preferable) as this can be seen as both confrontational and aggressive, and be approximately five or six feet away from them.

It is important to develop a relationship based on trust as this is the cornerstone of the counselling process. This can be achieved by clearly explaining the counselling contract (see the top of this page), using empathy, active listening and genuineness.

Active Listening

A range of skills are needed to fully utilise active listening. These include, but are not limited to:

1. Focusing on the client and what they are saying.

2. Using open questions (can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”).

3. Empathy. 

4. Summarising the client’s answers to demonstrate understanding.

5. Recognising the significance of non-verbal communication during the session.

How to be completely attentive (Gerard Egan)

S = Sit upright and at a 5 o’clock angle to the client.

O = Open posture (arms and legs uncrossed).

L = Lean in towards the client occassionally.

E = Eye contact and empathy.

R = Relax (this will make the client feel more relaxed).

The emphasis should always be on encouraging the client to think about how they may change the situation for themselves.


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