When I meet a client for the first time in my office, I want to help them feel at ease. Coming into therapy can be a frightening experience. When was the last time you walked into a stranger’s small office, sat down across from them, and told them the most concerning or uncomfortable things about your life?
If you’re thinking about it, please know that we do understand that starting the process of therapy can be extremely difficult. Sometimes clients call us after it has been on their “to-do” list for weeks, months, or even years. Perhaps a new client has been urged by friends or family to talk to someone for years before they finally make that call to a therapist. Other times, a person recognizes a need and calls the same day. I rarely know much about a new client’s process of coming to us when I meet them in my office for the first time. It’s my job to help them feel at ease.
Here is what to expect: I usually tell them a little about myself. Usually, this is reasons why I live here or what I studied in school that helps me do this work. I often talk about my style of counseling so they know what to expect with me. I might tell a client where I went to graduate school or how I came to know that I wanted to be a psychotherapist. It’s my goal to do this for just a few minutes to help the client see me in the light of a helping professional.
Of course, we always have paperwork to do, and we will make time to do that at some point in this first session, but my first priority is to create a feeling of safety for my client.
Then I try to get out of the way. What I mean by that, is that I try to give them the opportunity to tell me, in their own words, what it is that led them to this appointment today. What prompted them to make that call and ask someone they’ve never met before to meet with them. I’m trying to determine from these first moments with a new client how I might be able to help them make their life better in some way. The more the client can tell me about why they’re here, the better I can begin to formulate a treatment plan to help.
By the end of that first session, if they’ve had enough time to share your story about why they are here, I’ll be able to talk about how I think we should begin. I’ll engage the client in the process of creating our initial treatment plan together. That treatment plan is unique to the individual and it may need to shift and change as we work together – that’s normal. The most important things about having a treatment plan are that we always remain focused on why the client is here, how we are working towards their goals in therapy, and how we will know when they’ve reached those goals.
If you’re considering therapy for the first time or for the first time in a long time, make that call. Reach out to us to inquire about what we do and how we might be able to help you. You don’t need to do anything more than that. Make the call and then show up!