Starting with a new therapist can be nerve wracking and intimidating. We often have questions like “did I pick the right one?” or “what if they don’t like me?” or “is this going to help at all?”
Don’t worry! That anxiety is perfectly normal.
Whenever we meet someone new in any context, there’s always a little bit of anxiety. That’s because we don’t know yet if that person is safe or not. Most all of us grew up abiding by the stranger danger policy so your anxiety is telling you to just be careful as you open up.
What Happens When You Come to My Office
Chances are, if you’ve found yourself at my office, you’ve already had a decently long phone call with me. Since you’re actually on your way to see me, it means I really believe I can help you. I, and many other therapists, use their phone calls with clients to screen out who they can and can’t help. If I don’t think I can help you, I won’t book an appointment. I’ll give you a few referrals instead to call.
When you show up, I have a lovely waiting area at both of my offices that are quiet and peaceful. No need to check in with anyone! If I have you in my schedule, I won’t forget you. I’m just wrapping up with another appointment while you’re waiting.
Make sure to take a few deep breaths here while you’re waiting. I have lots of magazines that you can check out while you wait and I recommend that you do if you’re overly anxious.
Then I’ll come and get you from my office!
The First Appointment
I usually have a preferred chair that I like to sit in and a lovely couch for you to sit on. I let my clients do whatever they need to feel comfortable. Feel free to kick off your shoes and sit cross legged or with your knees up by your chest or hug a pillow if you need.
It’s okay! I’ve been through therapy before myself and plopped down on my own therapist’s couch, ready to let some emotions rip like a fart I’ve been holding in for a long time.
Now we’ll sign some boring paperwork. However, this paperwork is really important!
We’ll go through a disclosure statement which entails all the legal standards of my private practice and what you can expect from a counseling relationship with me.
Then I’ll have you fill out a contact form so I can get a hold of you via non secure means of communication (i.e. email, text, etc.).
Then I’ll go over a basic symptom checklist. This helps me form some very initial, basic diagnostic impressions. While I like to get much more investigative with my diagnosis process, it’s nice to start off with some broad concepts and get narrower from there.
I also have clients fill out a credit card form so I can collect payment. I like encouraging clients to use automatic billing for their counseling appointments. This way, it reduces the anxiety around paying for counseling.
I know it can be expensive but it’s just as important as getting the brakes on your car checked as is getting the oil changed. Those are necessary expenses that we don’t really like to pay. But when the payments are automatic, we don’t have to fret quite as much.
Lastly, depending on your age and who sent you to me, I’ll have you fill out a release of information for anyone I need to communicate with on behalf of your treatment. If you come to me via any of the psychiatrists that I work with, I will have you sign this so I can collaborate with them on your treatment. It’s fantastic and results in a much more refined treatment process!
Then we’ll move onto an intake questionnaire. This is just an information gathering session so I can better conceptualize what’s going on in your life. I’ll cover everything from some basic medical information to family history to mental health history to your present experiences.
My goal in this appointment is to keep your emotions in a healthy level. So if I think this process begins to feel overwhelming, I’ll have us take a quick break and do some deep breathing. To wrap up the intake, I like to ask what your goals for therapy are and how you would specifically like help in meeting those goals. It gives us a better roadmap moving forward.
At the end of the appointment, I’ll set up our next, first therapy appointment. While our first session was more about information gathering, our first therapy appointment will contain more emotion processing, education, and coping skills training. I base my therapy model off of being more directive and eventually let sessions move in a less structured direction.
Again, if you’re feeling anxious, that’s totally normal! You have nothing to be ashamed of. I’ll provide you the skills to work through that kind of anxiety in the future. Plus, once we get to know each other, that anxiety you feel right now will likely fade over time and probably not even be there anymore by session three.
If you’re reading this and have enjoyed my perspective on a first therapy appointment, give me a call at 720.260.4643 to set up your first appointment!