What if this is the year you start therapy?
Maybe you’ve been in the past or maybe this would be your first time working with a mental health professional. Whatever the case, it is likely that you have some questions. After all, up until recently, attending therapy and talking about attending therapy has been met with strong enough stigma that the entire experience has been hush-hush. But after the events of the last 2 years, more and more people are starting and returning to therapy looking for support.
So what should you expect if you choose to attend therapy?
Once you find a therapist or office you would like to work with, reach out to schedule or inquire about their services. Many sites like psychologytoday.com can help you narrow your search to a select number of therapists. You can even filter therapists to see if they take your insurance.
Something to note: Many offices have waitlists so if attending therapy is something you are even remotely interested in, consider calling and getting on waitlists sooner rather than later.
Prior to your first appointment you may briefly talk with a client coordinator to make sure there is a therapist who will possibly be a good fit for you. If both you and the coordinator feel like it’s a good fit, you will be sent paperwork to fill out BEFORE your first session. Completing this paperwork is really important and helps with benefits verifications, coordination of care, and treatment planning.
Something to note: Please be honest in talking with the client coordinator and in filling out your paperwork. In order to determine if it will be a good fit, information has to be accurate.
Your first session is going to be an intake session. This session uses the paperwork you have previously filled out along with guided questions from the therapist to explore what symptoms you are experiencing and what you are hoping to work on in therapy. During this first session you will be asked many questions as the therapist tries to gather an initial picture of how your life and experiences have led you to this appointment. This session can feel formal since you and the therapist are meeting for the first time. With this in mind, please know that a therapist is hoping that you will respond honestly to the questions, but has no expectation that you will share your most private secrets and traumas. During this session, you and the therapist will also discuss how frequently you will attend therapy and other expectations of the therapeutic relationship.
Something to note: The intake session can vary in length due to how much information the therapist needs to gather or how much you want to share. Make sure to ask the scheduler about the typical length of the intake session so you can plan your day accordingly.
Your next few sessions will also focus on exploring your goals for therapy and building the relationship between you and the therapist. It is important that you feel comfortable being honest and talking through things with your therapist so these first few sessions are the time to explore how you feel about the relationship you are building with the therapist. No two therapists are the same, so personality will play a factor in this. The therapist will work with you to develop your treatment plan which is a document outlining the goals and objectives for your time in therapy. This step is incredibly important as your treatment plan acts as a road map for the work you will do in therapy.
Something to note: There are many, many competent and capable therapists out there and the relationship you have with your therapist needs to feel safe and beneficial. If you do not feel well connected to your therapist, it is okay to find another therapist. You can ask your current therapist for help, discuss this need with the client coordinator, or return to sites like psychologytoday.com.
After the early sessions, your time with your therapist will feel less formal. You will be learning skills and processing life‘s experiences with your therapist as you work towards the goals outlined in your treatment plan.
Something to note: The treatment plan is a living document, which means it can be changed at any time to reflect new goals for treatment. You and your therapist will want to review your treatment plan from time to time to make sure you are working towards your goals.
So now you know a little bit more about the process of starting therapy, but did you know that many places offer both in-person therapy and virtual therapy? We’ll be discussing the benefits of virtual therapy in next week’s blog post and we invite you to come back to read about why that might be a great option for you.
In the meantime, we hope this information has been helpful and has helped decrease some of the mystery around therapy. If you would like the opportunity to work with our therapists, we invite you to start this process with our office by calling 602-675-6185.