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It's Okay To Be Nervous
The first time you walk into a counseling office there is going to be a lot emotion involved. That is okay, it is pretty normal in fact. You might be feeling anxious, excited, hopeful or even anger because maybe this isn’t your idea and you feel that your being “forced” into counseling. Perhaps the feeling that you are experiencing is relief because you are “finally doing it, getting help”. The different emotions you might be feeling are all pretty normal, even the anger, most definitely the anger. It is a very brave thing that you are doing, taking that first step into getting help. You are about to talk to someone, whom you have never met before, about some very personal stuff. You are hoping that the therapist can help you to shed some light onto what is going on with you. A little secret, that a lot of people do not know, is that therapists have the same emotions that everyone else has. That means that there is a strong possibility that the therapist might be feeling some anxiety about your first meeting because they are also dealing with an unknown, you. Hopefully the therapist might feel some excitement because they get to meet someone new.
What Happens in the First Therapy Session
The first session is typically about getting to know one another and understanding the specifics to why you are seeking out counseling. The therapist will not be looking to dive deep into your inner most thoughts and feelings on subjects in this first session. The therapist will want to build a trusting relationship with you and allow you to set the pace at which you both explore the dynamics in play in your life. The first session will focus on demographic information and getting to know your background, who you are and where you come from. The therapist might start the process of getting to know about your family dynamics and how many people are in your inner circle. The therapist might ask questions about if you have ever done therapy in the past and if you found it to be helpful. One of the most important questions that a Therapist will ask you is: “why now?”. Why are you seeking help today? What is going on in your life that got you to the point where you decided that now was the right time to take this brave step?
Common Questions About Therapy
Once a lot of those questions are answered the therapist will start asking questions about what kind of goals you want to work on with them and they might start talking in broad terms about what they might do to help you, give you a sort of blueprint to follow. A common question that I get a lot is “how many sessions will this take?”. I always tell people that there is not specific timetable and that it varies depending on the individual. In general, I tell my clients to “give me 3 months and 12 sessions and at the end of 3 months we will reevaluate where we are at. Typically, a lot of issues will resolve themselves within those first 12 sessions. If a client wants to spread those sessions out, say every other week or once a month, that is fine, but progress will take longer, and you would be looking at 6 months or 12 months depending on the frequency of sessions. If a client gives me 12 straight sessions over 3 months a lot of work can get accomplished and then at the end of 3 months when the evaluation occurs the conversation can include ending services, dropping to every two weeks or once a month etc. I have found that it really depends on the client what happens at the 3-month mark. Some clients feel that their goals have been accomplished and they are ready to face the world on their own. There are also those who feel as though they still need some time to focus on the original goals or new goals have been discovered and they would like to continue to address these goals with me.
Connecting with Your Therapist
A therapist’s goal should be that when the initial session ends you are filled with hope and even excitement that you and the therapist together will be able to help you work through whatever brought you into therapy. It is really important that you are able to connect with your therapist. It is okay to go into a session and not click with the therapist. If you are not sure if you click with the therapist going back for another session might be a good idea just to confirm your suspicions. At that point it is perfectly okay to end services and look for another therapist who you might fit better with. A therapist should never take offense to this situation because they are there to help and they understand that the most important piece to counseling is the relationship between the therapist and the client. If you are not comfortable with the therapist then it is going to be very hard for you to build that rapport and trust with them.
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