The First Session of Individual Therapy: What to Expect

Have you ever been in counseling or therapy?  Many people come in for the first time with a host of incorrect assumptions about the process and many times, fear, especially for those who may have very negative ideas attached to what it means to go to a therapist at all.

Therapists do things differently but there are some basics you’ll likely encounter.   I’ll lay out what you would be able to expect from me which would likely loosely translate with other people who do the work that I do.

  1. Intake and Consent for Treatment: You’ll fill out these forms ahead of session – either download them from my website – or fill them out in the waiting room. They’re standard office procedure for most that ask for information about you and require you to sign your consent to engage in the therapeutic relationship. Fees and office polices are also explained.
  2. Assessment: If you’re in my office for individual therapy – there’s likely something in your life that’s not working for you and you’ve not been successful at figuring it out.   I’ll want to hear about how you define the problem at hand. What are you looking for help with? If there are uncomfortable symptoms associated, I’ll want to assess the level of severity as well as know about your support system, your coping skills, etc. At some point I might talk a little more about how I work as it applies to your issue, give you a chance to ask me questions, etc.
  3. Your Story: I’ll ask you to tell me your story as how you think it might relate to your current problem.  I’ll ask about your family of origin, important relationships, childhood and other questions as I look for potential sources of the problem. I likely won’t get your entire story in one session but we’ll begin to look at it.
  4. Wrap Up: In the last few minutes of the therapy session, I try to wrap things up by summarizing what information has been revealed. I’ll probably ask how you’re feeling after the session and offer you an opportunity to ask questions. If it feels like there is a good therapist-client fit then we’ll move on together.

The first session is really about information gathering and the very beginning of establishing the therapeutic relationship, which is critical.   Research has shown that this is one of the most important elements behind success for people in individual therapy. It is paramount that the highest level of trust and emotional safety is eventually established between the four walls of my office.