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New To Therapy? What To Expect At Your First Session

Therapy is pretty prevalent these days--it comes up in books, movies, TV shows. Some of these depictions are pretty wonky and make me question whether or not the show writers have ever been in therapy or known anyone who's gone to therapy (probably not), but lately they've been getting better, have you noticed? In fact, one of my favorite depictions of counseling on television lately is on Ted Lasso. While still dramatized for television and WAY loose on boundaries (those late night phone calls, Ted showing up on Dr. Sharon's couch out of nowhere, Ted following Dr. Sharon around like a lost puppy out in public.. you get the idea), the way she speaks with and handles Ted and the rest of the team is compassionate, direct, and leads to some pretty great insight.

That being said, for some of us those TV depictions of therapy might leave us with a lot of big question marks when considering whether or not therapy is the right step. We know we need help figuring stuff out in life or dealing with certain issues, but... will I be greeted by a cold urchin in a lab coat with a clipboard who will make me lie down on a couch? Will they make me do dream interpretation? Rorschach tests? Kumbaya and candles and ohms??

Some of us need a little heads up as to what we're getting into--I'm right there with you! This differs a bit from therapist to therapist but here's what you can expect in a first session with me:

  • A friendly greeting from a normal person just like you. Chances are we've struggled with some of the same things in life, which is why you've decided to work with me. I don't have it all together, I can't read your mind, and I'm not here to tell you what to do with your life. What I do have is good solid clinical training and a healthy dose of empathy to help you unpack and process through what you're having trouble with in life.

  • A little housekeeping. This is typically a short introduction that includes a little about me and my practice, a brief explanation of some important informed consent and confidentiality information, and then a chance to ask any questions before getting started.

  • You talk. I'll ask you what brings you to therapy and how I can help. I do read your intake before you arrive, but I want to hear it directly from you. I'll ask questions to help flesh out your story and get the bigger picture of what you've been experiencing.

  • Goal setting. I like to ask what it would be like for you to feel better and be better. We might talk about what it might take to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.

  • Scheduling. As we're wrapping up, I'll touch base with you about how comfortable you feel. It's so important to me that you feel heard, understood, and hopeful about treatment going forward. If you're feeling hesitant, I'll explore that with you. If you're feeling good, we'll find a time on the calendar for our next session.

Hopefully that helps demystify the first session for you! Pretty painless, right? Stay tuned for part 2: What You Can Expect As Therapy Continues..


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