All right! You’ve scheduled your first counseling appointment. This means you’ve already overcome several major milestones in starting therapy, whether you realized it or not. First, you decided you’re ready for some support or help. Maybe you’re looking for counseling for anxiety or trauma, or emotional support during pregnancy or postpartum. Second, you did your research and found a therapist who is a good match for you. You figured out what’s important to you in a therapist– maybe that’s Christian counseling, or counseling for trauma recovery, counseling for anxiety, or a therapist who has specialized training in maternal mental health. Third, you evaluated the financial investment you’ll be making— either out-of-pocket or using insurance. And finally, you reached out and scheduled your appointment.
At this point, it’s normal to feel a range of emotions. Hopefully you’re hopeful and maybe even a little excited— you’ve been feeling depressed or anxious for awhile and now you’re taking action to feel better! Many people also feel a little nervous– this is very common when you’re starting something new. Here are some ideas to work through that anxiety:
- Map out your drive to the counseling office— maybe even do a test run. That way you’ll know right where you’re going on the actual day of your appointment and won’t be stressed about locating the right building.
- Make a list of things you want to make sure to address in your intake session. Write down the main symptoms and concerns you have. Also write out bullets of any pertinent life history— it can be difficult to summarize your whole life in 50 minutes so you might find it easier to follow some notes.
- Take some deep breaths and remind yourself you’re doing a good thing for your mental health!
Each therapist has their own slightly-unique style and flow to their intake sessions. Here’s what my first session with a client typically looks like:
- Greeting: I ask my new clients to wait in the lobby because I don’t want you to worry about wandering around the building to find the right office. When we arrive in my office suite, I offer a drink from my beverage station (I have bottles of water, and hot drinks like coffee, hot cocoa, tea, and cider). I want you to feel comfortable!
- Policies: Prior to your first appointment, you’ll complete intake paperwork online including a Mental Health History form and Informed Consent (practice policies). But there are a few policies that are especially important— Confidentiality and Attendance Policy— so I also review those in person.
- Interview: This is where I turn things over to you and ask about your concerns and history. Because you’ve already given me some information online before this appointment, I already have a general idea of what brings you in, but I also want to hear your story from you. I’ll ask some questions along the way to make sure I’m getting a clear picture of what brings you in.
- Goals: It’s important for us to be on the same page about what you want to get out of counseling. I’ll ask you to complete the sentence “I’ll know I’m done with counseling when ____.” How will you feel, and how will your life look different, when you know you’ve gotten what you came for? I’ll note your wording so we can review these goals in future sessions to make sure we’re making progress on what matters to you!
- Scheduling and Payment: We’ll decide on a next appointment time (in most cases, I recommend starting with weekly sessions for a month or two if schedules and finances allow), and I’ll ask for your payment for today’s session plus a credit card number to keep on file.
And that’s it! Many people feel report feeling relieved, hopeful, heard, and validated after just one appointment. My goal is to help you feel comfortable and optimistic about your ability to work toward your therapy goals and feel better.
If you’re ready to feel that same way— relieved, hopeful, heard, and validated— contact me to schedule your intake appointment today!