Those new to therapy are often uncertain and even apprehensive about their first visit to a therapist. Often, they do not know quite what to expect. And going to see someone you have not yet met in order to discuss your life can be intimidating. Counseling is a positive step that takes some courage, and like a lot of new changes, taking the first step can be challenging.
Just as when you go to a medical doctor's office for the first time, there is initial paperwork to fill out. This paperwork not only provides needed information about you--your name, your age, etc.--but also gives me information about how you would like to be contacted. For example, if a schedule change was necessary, would you want a message to be left at your home with another family member if you were unavailable? Do you want messages left on your answering machine, or is it important not to leave messages there? Would you like a message left for you at your workplace, or would it be vital NOT to leave a message at your workplace? These concerns may sound simple but end up being of enormous importance because they involve your privacy. It is important for us to get this matter right. Speaking of privacy, the initial paperwork will also inform you of privacy issues and office policies. This information, though comprehensive, can usually be covered in a fairly short period of time.
After your paperwork is completed, we will sit down together. There is some brief information I will have to share with you verbally, such as the limits of confidentiality, to make sure that it is understood. You are encouraged to ask any questions you have about these issues. Then we will talk about your concerns--what brought you to consider therapy, what issues you wish to address, what your goals and hopes are. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to talk about your concerns. There is no specific order in which you need to convey your ideas or your history. If it is important to you, then it is worth hearing and worth discussing.
It usually takes a few visits to acquire enough information to develop a therapeutic plan, or course of action, to start to produce the changes required to meet the client's goals. This is because while many people experience similar problems, their unique personalities, histories, and current situations often require different approaches to instigate positive changes. During these few initial sessions, too, we will be getting better acquainted--the personality "fit" in therapy is very important and is a big factor in future progress . Once enough background and current information has been acquired to establish a plan, then we will together determine a course of action for meeting your goals. The value of your exploration of your needs and beliefs in the office cannot be underestimated; additionally, however, therapy is about what happens in the rest of your life when you're not sitting in my office. Therefore, you will very likely be given some "assignments" of things to work on outside of therapy time to help you produce the changes you desire. Once you begin to work on your assignments, therapy becomes like an unfolding process, in which you learn new things about your strengths and weaknesses, develop insights into the obstacles in your way, and develop new skills to address those obstacles. The ongoing exploration of these issues is a critical factor in fine-tuning your plan so that you can be successful in your efforts.