7 Counselling Intake Interview Questions

This blog will talk about important counselling intake interview questions. First, readers will learn about what the counselling intake interview is. Then, we will explore these topics in more detail and explain their relevance.

What are some Counselling Intake Interview Questions?

Here is a list of important topics to address during the counselling intake interview:

  • Informed Consent
  • Background Inquiry
  • Counselling Procedure
  • Building Rapport
  • Chief Complaints
  • History Taking
  • Mental Status Examination

What is the Counselling Intake Interview?

The counselling intake interview is one of the most crucial parts of the counselling process. Without it, counselling cannot take place effectively. This interview sets the tone of the therapeutic alliance between a counsellor and the client. 

The purpose of this interview is to understand the specific needs of the client and to explain to them how the counselling process will take place. It is also an essential step in forming a trusting relationship between the two parties in order to make the counselling sessions a safe place to discuss personal issues.

Every licensed counsellor has their own way of conducting this interview. While some prefer to keep it a free-flowing interaction, most professionals have a fixed format or forms to complete this task.

Typical Counselling Intake Interview Questions

In this section, we will talk about seven topics that are covered in this interview. Each topic will be explained in detail and readers will find out why these are relevant in the counselling process.

Informed Consent

We start with this point because it is imperative to obtain the client’s informed consent before attempting any kind of counselling or therapy. Informed consent allows the client to be an active participant in the counselling procedure and to be well-informed about how it will take place.

Typically, counsellors use a form that provides information about the organisation that they work for, what to expect from the counselling sessions, what not to expect, and issues related to confidentiality.

The form always ends with a section where the client must give their signature to confirm that they have understood all these details. This part of the form also requires them to provide an emergency contact in case of SOS situations.

Background Inquiry

A lot of these forms ask for socio-demographic details like the client’s name, age, gender, sexual orientation, education, marital status, financial background, and nature of employment.

This information gives the counsellor an idea about the individual they are serving so that they can cater to each client’s unique needs. The data collected here is also helpful when there is a need for a referral.

Sometimes this part of the form also collects information about the client’s medical and psychological history but experienced professionals cover such questions in the detailed client history section, which we will talk about later.

Counselling Procedure

Earlier, counselling sessions were limited to in-person interactions within an office or clinic. However, with the advancement in technology and in the post-pandemic world, teleconsultation and online sessions are now highly prevalent.

The client needs to be informed about their options so they can tell the counsellor what they prefer. This part of the interview will talk about session modes, duration, timings, boundaries, and any other details that the client needs to know about.

In some cases, the client can choose to have a multi-modal interaction if such an option is viable. Once they have decided what to pick, the counsellor or their representative notify the client about payment options and the billing procedure.

Building Rapport

Any therapeutic relationship is incomplete without establishing rapport. Rapport exists when there is adequate understanding and trust between the two parties, which is pivotal in making the counselling setting a safe space.

There are several ways of building rapport with a client and an eclectic approach is best. The counsellor must appear approachable, non-judgemental, empathetic, and attentive. 

One can ensure these characteristics by being attuned to what the client is saying, listening actively, asking the right questions at the right time, and refraining from giving unsolicited advice or opinions. Sometimes, worksheets, activities, and games can also be included in this step.

Chief Complaints

Once all the steps mentioned earlier are complete, the interview focuses on gathering information about the client’s problem and requirements. The chief complaints are understood by asking questions about what brought the client to the counsellor.

A few examples of these questions are:

  • Why did you consider taking counselling?
  • How did you learn about our services?
  • When did these issues/concerns originate?
  • How long have you been experiencing this?
  • Have the issues worsened, improved, or stayed stagnant since they began?
  • Were there any precipitating factors or triggers that led to these issues?

After collecting the answers to these questions, the counsellor then summarises a list of chief complaints in the client file. Doing so helps them decide how to proceed with counselling and if any referrals to other professionals need to be made.

History Taking

History taking is a long and cardinal part of the intake interview. While some prefer to take all the information at once, others may take the history over a series of sessions. It truly depends on the quality of rapport between the two individuals and the nature of the chief complaints.

When the client’s issues indicate a history of trauma or abuse, the counsellor cannot simply ask all questions in the first session. It’s difficult to talk about sensitive issues to an absolute stranger on the first interaction.

A certain level of trust must be established before one can reveal such personal details about themselves. However, if there is enough rapport or the counsellor is an expert on the issue being discussed, it’s possible to complete the history taking in one sitting.

Topics covered in the history taking include:

  • Personal history
  • History of presenting illness
  • Social history
  • Family history
  • Medical history
  • Substance use history
  • Forensic history
  • Risk assessment

Mental Status Examination

The final part of the counselling intake interview is called Mental Status Examination or MSE. This is a specific kind of assessment that takes place at the beginning of the counselling procedure to evaluate the following:

  • General appearance
  • Behaviour
  • any unusual or bizarre beliefs and perceptions (eg, delusions, hallucinations)
  • Mood and affect
  • All aspects of cognition (eg, attention, orientation, memory)

MSE is always conducted in a structured manner, albeit with some room for variations. When this information is combined with everything else gathered in the counselling intake interview, the counsellor is able to make an accurate diagnosis and formulation, which are required for coherent treatment planning.


This blog talked about important counselling intake interview questions. First, readers learned about what the counselling intake interview is. Then, we explored these topics in more detail and explained their relevance.

The intake interview questions/topics addressed here were Informed Consent, Background Inquiry, Counselling Procedure, Building Rapport, Chief Complaints, History Taking, and Mental Status Examination.

FAQs (COunselling Intake Interview Questions)

How would you prepare for an intake interview for counselling?

Do not fear this interview as it isn’t interrogation of any kind. The counsellor needs this information in order to provide you with the care you need. 

The best way to prepare is to keep an open mind and answer the questions as honestly as you can. You can also keep your doubts and queries ready to ensure that you understand completely what to expect from counselling.

What is the counselling intake form?

The counselling intake form is a structured way to gather important information about you that will help the counsellor understand your needs. This process is quite detailed and essential for effective counselling. It is also an opportunity to familiarise yourself with the counsellor and how they conduct their service.

What are the steps in the intake process?

The steps in the intake process of counselling are listed below:

  • Contacting the service provider
  • Scheduling an appointment for the intake process
  • Reading and filling the form for informed consent
  • Providing details about your background
  • Understanding what to expect from counselling
  • Starting the rapport building process
  • Evaluating your chief complaints
  • History taking
  • Mental Status Examination
  • Discussing treatment options
  • Fixing the next appointment