First Coaching Session Or Intake Session

The first coaching session you have with your client is sometimes called an intake session, because, unlike subsequent coaching sessions your client to some extent will be ‘taking in’ information from you…about how you operate, what they can expect from coaching, etc.

I have differentiated this from the ‘ pre coaching conversation ’ (what I would carry out before we have agreed to work together) although some coaches may refer to this as their pre-coaching session or even combine the two. For me this is the first conversation that takes once we have agreed that a client is right for coaching and that I am the right person to help them achieve what they are aiming to achieve.

So your first coaching session is primarily all about clarifying how you will work together as coach and coachee – what commitments are expected from both sides, including style of coaching (e.g. how does the coachee wish the coach to respond if they fall behind on their goals, how challenging do they want you to be?), ‘rules’ regarding missed or late arrivals to sessions and addresses issues of confidentiality etc. This stage really is crucial as it forms the foundation of a relationship where there is trust and respect on both sides and firmly placing you as equal partners in this relationship. In my early days of coaching when I didn’t spend enough time on this stage I wondered why clients felt it was OK to turn up late for sessions or even worse cancel sessions at the last minute and not expect to pay for them, eventually leading to a breakdown in the whole coaching relationship where neither party benefits. The term ‘designing the alliance’ is often used to describe this process (referred to by Whitworth, Kimsey-House and Sandahl in their book Co-active Coaching).

You may start the session having already agreed the number of sessions you will be working together on and some overall aims for coaching but in this session you will be clarifying some initial specific goals for a programme of coaching and how the programme may be structured and pre-scheduled (if at all).

You will also need to talk through the administrative process – how sessions will paid for and when, what notes will be taken and how they will be communicated.

You may use a variety of coaching tools prior to this session which will help you and the client gain an insight into the client’s wants and needs before this session. These could include:

  • A pre-coaching questionnaire which asks a series of questions about the client’s background, aspirations, challenges etc
  • The Wheel Of Life which highlights key areas the client may want to work on
  • Various self-assessment tools which gives insight into the client’s values, strengths, or behavioural preferences.

To help ensure the necessities are covered in this first coaching session you may want to use the Intake Session Checklist as a guideline and then adapt it to suit you and your client’s needs.

How long should your first coaching session be?
This depends on what you has already been discussed with your client when they decided to use your services and it may also depend on whether you are meeting face to face or speaking over the telephone – telephone sessions usually have the capacity to be more focused. The thing to remember here is that you need to given enough time for any questions and concerns to be answered. I generally allow 1 hour.

Should you charge for an intake session?
This is down to you but my view is that it depends on what you are covering. If all it covers is the administrative process and basic information on how you operate then I would question what added value you are giving to your client. However if you are starting to explore goals and helping the client gain an insight into their strengths, values and behavioural preferences then I would say a definite yes.

Recommended Further Reading:

Co-Active Coaching, 2nd Edition: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and, Life by Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, and Phil Sandahl (Paperback - 15 Feb 2007)

See Also:-

Pre Coaching Conversation
Pre Coaching Questionnaire
Intake Session Checklist
Reasons To End Your Coaching Relationship
Ending Your Coaching Relationship
Post Coaching Relationship
Professional Coaching Practice


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