Here’s a list of essential things to do before your next counseling session – whether you’re the counselor or the client. Your sessions will be far more effective and interesting if you take a few minutes to think up the upcoming hour.
Key thought: For every minute you spend organizing, you earn an hour.
Preparing for a Counseling Session
Get the practical details out of the way. Make sure your water bottle is full, your tummy satisfied, your bladder emptied, your phone off, and your clothes comfortable. If you’re not comfortable in your clothes, read What to Wear to Work – Tips for Female Counselors. Take care of the temperature of your office, the lighting, and the sounds. If you or your client is distracted by the environment, your counseling session won’t be as productive.
Create goals for the session. Do you want to discuss a problem behavior, specific incident from the past, or a future plan? Even if your sessions are completely client-directed, you may have a few items you’d like to discuss. What do you want to discuss – and what risks will you take? Make it a habit to run through your list of things to do before a counseling session, to maximize your productivity.
Review past notes, emails, records, etc. If you keep notes from previous sessions with your client, review them before your client arrives. Take time to put yourself in your last session, and put yourself in your client’s shoes. What was she thinking, feeling, saying, doing? Allow her to move forward – that was the past, after all – but be aware of where she and you were last time.
Visualize your ideal counseling session. What would a productive session look like? What realizations or insights do you want your client to awaken to? My supervisor is an alcohol and drug addictions counseling in a residential recovery unit; he says, “if you go in looking for a fight, you’ll get one.” Knowing how to prepare for a counseling session is about setting your intentions.
Make note of administrative details. It seems like an obvious tip on how to prepare for a counseling session, but it gets forgotten! Sometimes the important details are left behind, such as your upcoming vacation, change in telephone number, schedule change, or office fumigation. Make sure you’re keeping your client appraised of everything that affects her.
Center yourself. Take a deep breath before your counseling session, and say a prayer. If you’re not spiritual, take a moment to connect with your Higher Power and ask for wisdom, guidance, strength, and clarity of thought. Don’t rush into your counseling session without taking time to calm your mind and spirit. Get ready to connect with your client on a heart level, and give her the best of yourself.
What about you – what helps you prepare for a counseling session?