5 Steps for Your First Appointment with a Counselor

Amber Ginter

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Published: Feb 24, 2023
5 Steps for Your First Appointment with a Counselor

There is a reason Satan tries to keep us quiet and ashamed. It's only by bringing our hurts to the surface, to the light, that healing can take place. That means being honest with yourself, God, and your counselor or therapist. 

“I think you know what you need to do; you just don’t want to do it.”

My best friend's words pierced through the phone, penetrating a wound in my heart I’d been ignoring for over a decade: trauma. 

She was right. I knew I needed to see a counselor. Keeping all my thoughts inside my head wasn’t helping anyone. I was reliving memory after memory, drinking a poisonous elixir yet expecting healing to magically appear. But healing wouldn’t begin until I was willing to talk to someone about what I was going through. 

This is why I want to help ease any hesitations you may have about seeing a counselor yourself. Being an adult and searching for the right counselor can be scary! Questions like What if they’re a quack? What if they don’t help? cloud our minds. 

But here are five steps for approaching your first appointment that helped me in my first session, and it’s my prayer they’ll help you, too!

Step 1: Find a Counselor

Before making the leap to see a counselor, I wanted to make sure I saw someone who was certified and would gel well with my personality. I wasn't looking for a perfect person but someone who would be caring and empathetic in our sessions. 

I did a lot of research using Psychology Today, as well as searching for reviews on specific therapists I thought might make a good fit. If you're a Christian, you can even filter people on Psychology Today who share your faith if that's important to you (or ask your church leaders if they recommend any trusted Christian therapists). Their website also includes filters for faith, insurance, gender, age, price point, and more. 

It was also extremely valuable to me to speak to individuals who’d seen the counselor I was interested in booking a session with. And because I initially met my counselor through my college, this wasn't as challenging for me. If it is, however, I recommend reading recent reviews and checking with those you trust. Just be aware you won't be able to learn everything through research, so try not to stress yourself out with this! Research can be helpful in narrowing down the pool of options, but don’t get stuck here.

Step 2: Pat Yourself on the Back

Reward yourself. Phew! You’ve done the challenging task of finding a counselor. I know that takes guts and courage, but this first step really is the most crucial. However, we can’t stop there.

I know at this point you might be tempted to freak out and cancel the session before it starts, but don’t! Be proud of yourself for doing this scary thing, and remind yourself how important it is to keep going.

Just as with anything, from working out, to eating healthy, or taking medication for a sickness, our path to recovery must be long-term. It's important to reward yourself along the way and be proud of how far you've come. But as Jesus often teaches, there is always room for improvement, room for us to grow and be better. So pat yourself on the back for this huge accomplishment, but don't stay there. Keep going! I believe in you. 

Step 3: Prepare for Your First Session

Once I decided on a counselor, I had to fill out a lot of paperwork that explained my mental, physical, emotional, and social health. Different counselors might have different procedures, but the most important thing for you to prepare is to consider what you hope to achieve in your sessions. 

For example, setting your own goals and ideas prior to your first meeting can help lessen nerves and give you more clarity. These goals could range from “talk to more people” if you’re dealing with social anxiety or “come up with an action plan for my panic attacks.” But please don’t worry if you’re having trouble putting goals together! A good counselor can help you create these and go over them during your initial meetings, as well.

Step 4: Be Vulnerable

Now that you’ve made the appointment, it’s key that you’re honest with your counselor. Being transparent and vulnerable is the only way they can effectively help you heal. And all that paperwork you had to fill out? Your counselor wants you to be honest in it so they can help you best.

Being transparent with someone you hardly know might sound crazy. It’s certainly not easy! But as you get to know your counselor and invest the time and effort it takes to build a relationship with them, trust can grow, and healing can result. 

Before, I decided to seek help for what I was experiencing at home, and in my mind, fear held me back. I started to believe that the more I kept my problems hidden, the quicker they would go away. The reality is that the more we keep our problems to ourselves and hidden in the darkness, the more they thrive. There is a reason Satan tries to keep us quiet and ashamed. It's only by bringing our hurts to the surface, to the light, that healing can take place. That means being honest with yourself, God, and your counselor or therapist. 

Step 5: Know That Cultivating a Relationship with Your Counselor Takes Time

There’s something else you have to know: your first appointment with a counselor is probably going to feel weird. This is the case for almost everyone. But please hear me out: go to the appointment anyways. And while you’re there, open up. Share, be honest, and be transparent. But don't be surprised if you don’t click right away and they aren't immediately your best friend. 

That said, if it’s not the right fit, don’t force it. Trust your gut and intuition. Sometimes people who meet their counselor or therapist truly don’t like them. This wasn’t my experience, but it’s okay to give it some time. And at the end of the day, if you really have some concerns, know that you might not find the right counselor immediately. It may take some trial and error. But even once you’ve found a good counselor, things could still feel awkward. And that’s okay because cultivating this relationship takes time. 

When I walked into my first session, I felt so weird. Sharing with a stranger was hard. But over time, we built trust, and now I can’t imagine getting therapy from anyone else. Building trust takes time and communication. 

Maybe today you’re in a similar place as I was before I started counseling. You know that you need to reach out, but you’re scared or unsure. I hope that through these five steps, you’ll be encouraged to make that first appointment and begin healing, one session at a time. 

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/PeopleImages

amber ginter headshotAmber Ginter is a young adult writer that currently works as an English teacher in Chillicothe, Ohio, and has a passionate desire to impact the world for Jesus through her love for writing, aesthetics, health/fitness, and ministry. Amber seeks to proclaim her love for Christ and the Gospel through her writing, aesthetic worship arts, and volunteer roles. She is enrolled in the YWW Author Conservatory to become a full-time author and is a featured writer for Crosswalk, ibelieve, Salem Web Network, The Rebelution, Daughter of Delight, Kallos, Anchored Passion, No Small Life, and Darling Magazine. In the past, she's also contributed to Called Christian Writers, Southern Ohio Today News, Ohio Christian University, and The Circleville Herald. Visit her website at amberginter.com.