Congrats! For many people calling to set up a counselling appointment is one of the hardest steps. Many times, making the call can have a therapeutic effect as you realize that you are no longer alone in whatever struggle you are facing. So after you have set up the appointment, what can you expect?
For the first session, you can expect that there will be some paper work. If your counsellor has a web site, this initial paper work can often be downloaded and filled out at home. In most cases the paper work requires general information (address, birthdate), but may also ask for more specific information about why you are seeking counselling. Only fill out the information you feel comfortable answering, the most important things will come out as your talking with your counsellor. Whatever information you provide will be kept confidential.
After the paperwork has been completed, you can likely expect that your therapist will have a brief discussion with you about confidentiality. Whatever is said between you and your therapist, stays between the two of you. There are some standard (by law and by our respective regulatory bodies) exceptions to confidentiality, such as if your therapist is worried you may harm yourself or someone else, if a child needs protection, or if they are summoned to court (that is rare). These exceptions to confidentiality apply to all counselors in Canada and are put in place to help protect vulnerable individuals. If you have any concerns about this or are not clear on what confidentiality means, then ask.
Finally, in the first session there is some information gathering. It is a chance for your therapist to get to know you and what your goals are. It is also an opportunity for you to see if the therapist feels like a good fit. Most therapists try to achieve some clear and specific strategies within the first session, depending on what brings you in. Many therapists also give homework (don’t worry, no math) for you to work on outside of session. If you do not agree with something your therapist says or are not open to doing something they suggest, say so (we can’t read minds). Remember, this is your time!