Sarah Barr shares a guide on what to expect from a counselling session and what you can do to make it more effective.

Visiting a counsellor for the first time is incredibly daunting and it can be really difficult. Many people will often think about making that first appointment for months before they actually do.

This is okay.

By making an appointment you’re taking the first step, you are accepting that you don’t feel like yourself, that you need help. You are no longer trying to ignore the problem or issue.

By attending your first appointment, you are taking back ownership of your life. You are both brave and strong.

Below is a few things that may help if you are thinking about taking that first step and a little information about how counselling works.

A guide to taking the first step:

Be open minded

It’s very easy to go to counselling with unhelpful preconceptions and expectations, and to be sceptical. However it is important to keep in mind that a counsellor is trained and qualified to help people. Sometimes a counsellor might make suggestions that seem silly or wrong but it’s best to keep an open mind and be willing to try new approaches.

Be honest

Admitting to horrifying intrusive thoughts, sharing how you really feel or disclosing a traumatic experience is very difficult. A counsellor will not be shocked or judge you. They are there to help and support you. They will help you to understand and manage those terrible thoughts. Your counsellor can only work with what you tell them so if you feel comfortable, try to tell them everything.

Be realistic

Accepting that your counsellor isn’t a magician. You will be required to do a lot of work yourself. A counsellor will be able to give you a starting point for that work, and support you as you go along acquiring skills and new coping tools.

Be patient

The first couple of sessions can increase hope and make you feel a little better, but it’s important to remember you’re probably going to need several sessions before you see real benefits.

Write everything down

CBT requires quite a lot of writing but it is also helpful to use notebooks to keep track of what you want to discuss with your counsellor at the next session, weird thoughts that you’ve had, keeping track of your triggers, creating a mood journal, revelations that you experience and lots of positive statements, affirmations and goal setting. The nature of anxiety means that you can feel completely different from one hour to the next so it’s important to capture the good times to look back on and the bad points to discuss at therapy.


Therapy is hard. It can be exhausting and frustrating.
But with a good attitude and an experienced and supportive professional, it can change your life and your perspective.

For any further information or to make an appointment, call 086 447 7867 or send a private message,

Take Care ~ Sarah.