The Beginning, Middle and End of a Counselling Session – A Complete Guide

Coming to a point in life where you finally realize that you need help from a professional, to deal with your emotional baggage is a big step in life. This kind of self-realization takes time. Deciding that you need help is never a sign of weakness.

Many fear that they may appear weak if they go for therapy but what they don’t realize is that it takes a lot of courage to actually ask for help. It only makes you stronger. 

A lot of preparations go in for a counselor before, during and after every session. Each session is customised according to the client’s issue. The counselor then creates a plan of action to overcome the client’s problems. 

The three stages of counselling – the beginning, the middle and the end 

The Beginning

In the beginning of counselling, the therapist first tries to build a rapport with the client.  It is essential to create a safe space for the client. This is the initial disclosure phase where the counselor starts getting to know about the client.

It is always best to start the session with introductions to make the client feel more comfortable. It is natural for the client to feel nervous and anxious at the first session so it is crucial for the counselor to slowly ease the client into the therapeutic process. 

Building a relationship with the client is the most important step at this stage. The more comfortable the client feels, the more likely he/she is to open up to the counselor. The counselor needs to be patient and actively listen to the client.

It is also important for the therapist to observe the client’s body language. That helps determine whether the client feels comfortable or closed-off. The client slowly starts to open up about their issues that they need help dealing with. 

The client needs to feel that the counselor is genuinely interested in listening to their problem and they should feel the counselor exhibiting empathy towards them. Once they feel heard, they are more willing to dig deeper into their emotions.

It is not only important to listen to the client, but it’s also important to listen and react to what the client is trying to say. The counselor must encourage the client as much as possible and give them unconditional positive regard. 

Although this stage is more about getting the client to open up and express their thoughts and emotions, the therapist must also establish boundaries so as to avoid transference and countertransference during the counseling process. 

The Middle

In therapy, the middle stage would be where the counselor does the history intake of the client. This is the in-depth exploration phase where the therapist examines the depth of the issue faced by the client. In this stage, the counselor also explores the client’s life and personality.

The history intake consists of the client’s basic personal data, as well as their emergency contact details. The counselor examines, in detail, about the client’s personal life – their childhood, their upbringing, interpersonal relationships, family background, etc. 

The counselor also tries to determine the onset and duration of the problem faced by the client. In this stage, the counselor further asks the client about his/her goals and expectations from therapy. 

Making a note of the client’s presenting problem plays a key role in his/her further diagnosis. It is important for the counselor to cross check with the client, by paraphrasing or summarizing, whether they have actually understood what the client is trying to say.

Making wrong assumptions and misunderstandings between the therapist and client can hamper the therapeutic relationship. If the rapport is hindered then the counselor will need to take a few steps back and rework their way back to the relationship building stage. 

It is necessary for the counselor to determine where the presenting problem posed by the client has manifested from. The therapist needs to observe the client carefully and catch any verbal or non-verbal cues exhibited by them. 

Non-verbal cues can be difficult to pick up on but some clients communicate more with their body language than their words. The therapist also needs to listen to any changes in the client’s tone. That can say a lot about how the client is actually feeling.

The End

In this last stage, the therapist sets goals that are acceptable to the client in order to start treatment. This is the commitment to action phase where the therapist and the client work towards achieving their goals.

The client is always focused on the problem, whereas, the therapist’s main focus is the client and how to create a healthy enough therapeutic process for them to get through their issues and be able to achieve their goals. 

Setting goals gives direction to the process. Otherwise, there comes a point where the therapist and client may feel that they are stuck and unable to make progress. Achieving goals one by one helps the process to make progress.  

There are two types of goals that need to be set – short term goals and long term goals. Short term goals should be simple and easily achievable but long term goals need to be more concrete and give purpose to the client’s life.

If the client already has long term goals in mind but is finding it difficult to work towards them, it’s best to break them down into smaller goals. If you provide a step by step format to your client, then they can easily move forward with their goals. 

By the end of the session, the counselor must summarize everything that the client said during the session in a structured manner. It is important to gain clarity so as to understand the client correctly. It is also important to reflect the client’s feelings. 

Summarization at the end of the session also helps the client remember what was discussed and how to go about it for the next session. The best way to end a counseling session is to assign homework to the client so that they can work on improving themselves outside of therapy. 

Before ending the session, the therapist should check in with the client to see whether they are feeling too overwhelmed by the process.


In conclusion, the beginning, middle and end of a counselling session has three phases – the initial disclosure phase, the in-depth exploration phase, and the commitment to action phase. 

We explored each phase in detail.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Beginning, Middle and End of a Counselling Session

What are the 3 stages of a Counselling Session?

The 3 stages of a counselling session are:

  • The beginning stage, also known as initial disclosure stage
  • The middle stage, also known as the in-depth exploration stage
  • The end stage, also known as the commitment to action stage

What is the middle stage of Counselling?

The middle stage of counselling is when the counselor enables the client to gain perspective about their problems. The middle stage involves exploring the client’s personal and work life, family history, medical history and the onset of the problem. 

What are the 5 stages to a counseling session?

The following are the 5 stages to a counseling session:

  • Stage 1: Initial disclosure.
  • Stage 2: In-depth exploration.
  • Stage 3: Commitment to action.
  • Stage 4: Counseling intervention.
  • Stage 5: Evaluation, termination, or referral (if needed)

How do you end a counseling session?

Around 10-15 minutes before ending the session, the therapist needs to summarize the session for the client and check with the client whether they missed anything. After summarizing, the counselor should reflect the client’s feelings so they feel heard and understood. 

The therapist should then ask the client whether there was anything more they would want to discuss about. Before the client leaves, the therapist should assign homework from the client to do. This encourages them to work on themselves before their next appointment.