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Whether you have participated in counselling before or if this is your first experience of therapy, taking this first step can be daunting, and I know it can take real courage to do that.

My intention with every client is to make the first steps into our work together as clear, straight forward and supported as possible whilst still also making sure we are covering important steps so that your counselling is conducted ethically and safely.

This article will give you an idea of what to expect within your first session with me to help make what might feel unfamiliar more comfortable.

So, let's begin to look at the process of getting into your counselling together...

Step 1: Your Free 15 Minute Exploratory Call

The initial step within my practice is our free exploratory 15 minute call together which can be on a phone call or Zoom if you prefer.

This call is quite literally an exploration - an opportunity to just be with one another and for you to ask yourself - do you feel comfortable with me? Do you like my way of being? Does what I share about my way of working resonate with you? There are no right or wrong answers here - you are the captain of your own ship and can make the decision about which way you wish to steer!

"You are the captain of your own ship and you can make the decision about which way you wish to steer!"

Research has shown that the quality of the therapeutic relationship plays a central role in the success of counselling. Whilst I run an inclusive practice welcoming people of all identities, backgrounds and abilities, it is important that you find a therapist that feels right for you.

During this call we will look together at whether I meet your needs at this time. I will have a few questions to help gently guide our conversation and you will have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have. I will attempt to demistify therapy as much as I can so that it is accessible for you.

Once we have finished our initial call, I will invite you to take some time to reflect and see how it felt for you, with no pressure whatsoever for you to move forwards unless it feels like the right decision for you.

If you do feel you wish to proceed we can then look at getting you booked in to your first counselling session with me.

Step 2: Clear and straightforward paperwork

If you decide to book a session I will send you a copy of my counselling agreement and privacy policy to sign. I will also ask you to complete a client onboarding form. This is all completed securely online on my e-signature platform provider so you can be assured your data is safe.

The counselling agreement outlines how we will work together and arrangements around this, whilst the privacy policy focuses specifically on how I will handle your data and protect your confidentiality whilst we work together. The client onboarding form collects some information about you to ensure our work together is conducted safely and ethically.

"If you wish to clarify any part of the documents I am happy to do this and we can discuss, negotiate and make any amendments we need to as we go along your therapeutic journey."

If you prefer to listen to an audio version of each document I can provide these for you.

If you wish to clarify any part of the documents I am happy to do this and we can discuss, negotiate and make any amendments we need to as we go along your therapeutic journey.

Once these are signed we are ready to get started on our counselling together!

Step 3: Our first session together

Before our first counselling session together, if you are unfamilar with the video conferencing platforms I use for therapy, I will guide you through the setup of this and provide step-by-step instructions to support you.

On the day of your session, depending on whether you have chosen in person, online or telephone counselling, I will either meet you outside our therapy room in Chiswick, send you a meeting link for your chosen online platform prior to our session or call you at your appointment time.

Primarily, this first session will build on our initial phone call together and begin to establish our therapeutic relationship together. We will explore a little more the background and context you arrive in therapy with, including some details that are important for me to know to support you with your wellbeing. We will also discuss our counselling agreement to make sure it is clear for you.

Primarily, this first session will build on our initial phone call together and begin to establish our therapeutic relationship together.

This is also a space for us to dive a little deeper into why you have chosen to participate in counselling and what you hope to gain from it as well. This helps us work out together where we are heading but there is no pressure on you if this isn't entirely clear - perhaps you would like to make some change in your life but you don't have clarity on how you'd like that to look for you. There is no right or wrong in this. Some clients like structure in sessions, others appreciate working more organically, seeing what arises in the moment - often my client work can lead into territories that aren't directly associated with a client's initial concern which can also hold great value.

Once we feel that this has been explored sufficiently we will look into whatever it is you wish to bring, in whichever way you wish to start. If you need help to identify this, I will help you with this process.

Step 4: Onward we go

And that's it - we are on our way together.

Your session each week is your time to explore with me what you feel will have value to you and I will support you in knowing what is right for you. I will check in with you on a regular basis to see how we are working together is being experienced by you and I invite you at any point to let me know if we need to steer the ship or adjust the sails.

I invite you at any point to let me know if we need to steer the ship or adjust the sails.

We will meet at the same time, every week unless one of us is unable to attend a session (I ask for 48 hours notice on your part and always aim to give one month's notice if I know that I will be away). I believe consistency is valuable in the effectiveness of therapy and will be committed to being a support to you in our sessions every week.

So... how does it sound to you?

I hope this has given a bit of insight in how our first steps together in counselling might look.

Perhaps you are ready to get going, if so please email me on: hello@hamiltonsargentcounselling.co.uk.

Otherwise, please do feel free to contact me with any further questions that might help you decide if I'm potentially the right fit for you.

In the meantime, here are some links for further information that might be helpful for you:

Hamilton Sargent is a BACP registered counsellor having studied person-centred counselling for 4 years. He also completed a specialist certificate in online and telephone counselling.

Hamilton offers online and telephone counselling for adults in the UK within his private practice, alongside being an Academic Lecturer on the BSc (Hons) Person-Centered Pluralistic Counselling programme at Metanoia Institute.


Disclaimer: Please be aware that information and guidance around counselling may develop and change over time and may only be correct at the time of publication. I also cannot take responsibility for any independent resources mentioned and encourage you to do your own research if using any of these services.