What to Expect in Therapy

Thinking about starting therapy but feeling uncomfortable about what to expect during that first session? Or, maybe you’re thinking about coming back to therapy after a long break and want to try a new therapist.

I’d like to help you get a little more acquainted with the process.

Before our first session, you will fill out an intake form, this is a great chance for you to ask any questions as well.

Your first session or the first couple of sessions is typically called “the intake.”

This is our opportunity to get to know more about what brought you to therapy and to discuss how we will work together to meet your therapeutic goals.

During this “intake” process, we will discuss the importance of confidentiality and when it may need to be broken, our cancellation policies, and what steps you should take in case of an emergency. We’ll discuss boundaries and confidentiality related to social media. It’s likely we’ll also discuss what to do if we see each other in public. Our professional ethics boards have lots of rules about how we interact with clients outside of the therapy space. So after all these guidelines, will come all the questions.

  • I’ll ask you about what brings you to therapy, how long the issue has been going on and why are you deciding to start therapy now.
  • I’ll ask about your relationship with family and friends, what you do for work or school, what your sleep and eating patterns look like whether or not or if you use any substances and whether you have had medication or therapy in the past.
  • It’s also standard for us to ask whether you are currently having any thoughts about suicide or homicidal ideations or whether you’ve had them in the past.
  • We’ll talk about your therapeutic goals, what you would like to get out of therapy? If you were to wake up tomorrow and know everything was better, how would you know?

Now we may not get into all the areas in the first session, depending on where the questions lead, but it’s likely you will get into these roughly the first three sessions. Again all these questions are designed to get an idea of what is going on with you, what areas we may need to ask more about and how we may help you meet the therapeutic goals that you set. We don’t all follow one script and there isn’t one way to do an intake, but generally, this is what you would expect a first session to look like.

Something to be mindful of after the first session.

You may not walk away with a lot of solutions or answers after your first session. It’s more about building our therapeutic relationship and getting to know you. It may also be important to keep in mind, that a treatment plan may not be completely established during the first session. You will need time to get to know me, and I will need time to get to know you. It’s unlikely that you will leave the first session with a diagnosis – if you ever leave with a diagnosis. It would be important to know that more information about your history, and the severity of any symptoms you are experiencing before we’ll make a diagnosis, but it’s also important to know that not everyone meets the criteria for a diagnosis. You can see a therapist without ever needing to meet the criteria for a diagnosis. You do not need to have a diagnosis to be seen in therapy.

Lastly, you may feel a little exposed after the session, especially if you’ve shared a lot and this is the first time you talked about some private information. It may feel really good to share with someone what you have been going through, but afterward, you may experience what we call a vulnerability hangover. This is not uncommon. Attending that next session will likely be a worthwhile experience.

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