Why Is the Initial Consultation so Important? What Factors Will an Ethical Therapist Cover at This Time?

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Why is the initial consultation so important? What factors will an ethical therapist cover at this time?

In this essay I will be looking at the purpose of the initial consultation, what happens during this meeting and why it is such an important time in the client/therapist relationship.  I will endeavour to cover as many of these issues as possible in order to illustrate the importance of this initial consultation and the factors that an ethically minded therapist should cover.

The initial consultation…free or not?

The initial consultation may well be the most crucial aspect of hypnotherapy, if not all therapies. Everything from the knowing the client, interpersonal dynamic to the eventual success of the therapy has a basis in this first meeting between the client and the therapist. Indeed, the client’s decision to remain engaged with the therapeutic process may be determined by factors from this early meeting.

There is much controversy and debate around whether the client should be charged for the initial consultation. One thought is that charging would be unjust if the therapist cannot provide the sought therapy for one reason or another. A counter argument to this is: if there is no charge clients may take advantage of this “free” session without any intention to return.  It could also be said that a “free” session acts as a lure for the client, implying they may feel obligated to enter into a contract with the hypnotherapist. In my opinion, the initial consultation is fundamental for the evaluation of the client, in order to have a clear idea of the client’s issues and needs. It would be unethical practice on the part of the therapist if this evaluation was not carried out. As long as this is explained to the client in the very first contact then it is right to charge. However I myself would prefer to offer this as a “free” consultation because I see the first session as an evaluation for both parties. It is an opportunity for the therapist to fulfil their duty of care and understand the client’s needs before undertaking any work with them. It is also an opportunity for the client to explore the possibility of undertaking a course of therapy without feeling any pressure to continue if they feel uncomfortable.   I would however make this consultation session shorter than a usual session, to distinguish the difference. I would also have very clear boundaries around how a free consultation was administered.

Some of the benefits of providing a free initial consultation are:

• Enables you to get a ‘feel’ for the client, as you will be face to face – is this someone you could work with? • You can check that you do not know the client in any way or that you are not connected to them in a way that is inappropriate (Dual Relationship) • You can check whether they are on any medication, particularly anti-psychotics or anti-depressants • You can gain an understanding of their family history that may indicate possible areas of concern. • You can assess their goal with them and determine whether it is obtainable • You can arrange a contract for your therapy including costs and number of sessions before reviewing • You can find out about previous therapy/counselling in the past- was it successful, are there any therapies they didn’t like? Why? • You can gain an understanding of their family dynamic and living environment • You can enquire as to any problems that may effect their motivation and self esteem • You can assess whether you will need to run any questions by your supervisor before proceeding further • Conveys professionalism in your field – which can only assist with public relations and instilling respect and trust in this therapy. • May help to encourage ‘undecided’ potential clients attend as ‘what have they got to lose?’ • Assists with building trust and rapport, you are building a working relationship before the therapy...