University of Minnesota

What to Expect from Individual Counseling

What is a counseling session?

The individual counseling process involves a helping relationship between two people. Typically, the relationship is one important part of what makes counseling successful. Counselors assist individuals with expressing emotions, solving personal problems, and understanding oneself better. They also offer support and resources.

What happens in a first and subsequent sessions?

In a first session your counselor will ask you a variety of questions about you, your life and what is bothering you. This discussion will help the counselor understand you and your concerns, and make an initial assessment of your situation. Later sessions will likely be less structured than the initial session.

What will my counselor expect of me?

Counselors will expect you to participate in sessions and contribute to the counseling process. It is okay to go to a counselor primarily for support. You initially do not need to be ready to make changes. It is helpful if you are at least willing to explore with the counselor what is concerning you and what you would like to be different. Generally counselors will want to help you explore both your thoughts and feelings. But if you are uncomfortable or not used to discussing feelings, you can tell that to the counselor.

What does it take for counseling to be effective?

Counselors vary in their approach and beliefs about how counseling is most effective. All counselors will be focused on helping you deal with the problems that brought you in. Counselors will expect you to come prepared to talk about what is bothering you, be open about your thoughts and feelings, and discuss ways you can address your concerns. Counselors cannot “fix” your problems or force you to change, but they can help you figure out what you want to do.

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