Most of my clients report feeling a bit nervous before their first online counselling session. They didn’t know what to expect and wondered how they could tell me what was on their minds and what questions I might ask them. To anticipate new clients’ fears and anxieties, I would like to write this post to give you a detailed overview of what to expect from your first online counselling session, also referred to as the intake session. 


The first session
Photo by Jenny Ueberberg on Unsplash


In my psychological online practice, the first session is always 90 minutes long (further counselling sessions are then typically 50 minutes long). 90 minutes may seem very long at first, but my experience shows that it is usually just right. It gives us enough time to get to know each other, allows the clients to describe their issues and concerns, and gives me a good overview of my client’s situation and case history. Especially in the beginning, there usually is a lot to talk about and almost all of my clients report that the conversation went by much faster than expected. They are typically surprised at how quickly the 90 minutes have passed. 



The first session is always something special


The first sessions are always very special in psychotherapy and psychological counselling, whether online or offline. Many of my clients have already had a good look around my website and blog before the first session, have seen a video or two on YouTube, and thus already have a pretty good impression of who I might be. But no matter how well you think you know who you are dealing with, the first counselling session is always a small (or even big) challenge for my clients.

Many people deliberate for weeks or months before they decide to make the initial contact. Depending on the time zone and appointment schedule, I usually respond to their request within a day or two. It can then take a few days to a few weeks before the first session actually takes place.



Contents of the first counselling session


  1. Firstly, I will welcome you to my “virtual practice” and give you some general information about how we will proceed.
  1. Depending on your preferences, you can either talk openly about what brings you to me, or I will ask you a few questions to encourage you to tell me more about your situation.
  1. I will prompt you to describe your issues in more detail and ask questions about the origin, duration, and course of your concern or problem.
  1. I will also ask you to tell me more about your life in order to give me a better idea of who you are as a person and your personal development to date.
  1. If you have previous experience with therapy, I will ask you to tell me a bit more about that. What did you find helpful, and what was perhaps not so useful? Is there anything you would have liked to be done differently? 
  1. If necessary, we will determine together whether online counselling is right for you and what frequency of appointments is most suitable. In case of very specific and circumscribed concerns, a few hours can be sufficient; in many cases, a longer counselling duration makes sense. Especially at the beginning of counselling, weekly appointments can be useful. Later, we often change to a fortnightly rhythm. 
  1. Finally, we will set goals together for further counselling. Many of my clients come to the first session with clearly formulated goals. Sometimes, it can be a matter of specifying these goals even more concretely or developing a realistic timetable. Other clients only know that they want something to change, but how and what exactly is sometimes difficult to grasp. In these cases, it is a matter of exploring together what this “different” or “better” could look like.



All this in 90 minutes?


Of course, we cannot go into your complete life story and all the important aspects of your situation in 90 minutes. The first session serves mainly as an initial orientation. In the following meetings, we will talk about specific aspects in more detail and deepen what we have started. The more specific your issue is, the faster we can usually get into the details. The more comprehensive and complex the situation, the longer it will naturally take until you have told me all the relevant details. It is also completely normal that other important things will come to your mind after the initial intake session, which we can then take up in the second meeting.

I hope you now have a better idea of what to expect from the first session of psychological counselling. To learn more about how you can prepare yourself ahead of your first counselling session, I recommend reading this follow-up blog post.






If you would like to learn more about my work as an online therapist and want to receive regular insights into my virtual counselling practice, subscribe to my monthly newsletter!




Online counselling: the first session

Photo by Christina on Unsplash

Subscribe now for monthly tips and exercises for your mental health & exclusive insights into my virtual practice

Thanks! Don't forget to check your inbox and confirm your subscription! See you soon