Updated: Mar 24, 2020
If this is your first time coming to see a therapist it's normal to feel nervous. Even if you've seen therapists in the past, meeting someone new can be nerve-wracking. Having some questions prepared can help alleviate some of that anxiety. That's where I come in- here are some cover-your-bases questions for your first session.
1. How long will our sessions be?
Each therapist sets a different length of session that works for them. Most sessions should be between 45 minutes and an hour. Intakes tend to be on the longer side ranging from an hour to 90 minutes. Feel free to reach out to your therapist before starting to check how long your intake will be. Remember that you're committing to working on yourself for you, and that you are worth the investment of an hour a week!
2. How do I pay for sessions?
Every therapist has their own way of billing and collecting fees. Some therapists contract with insurance companies that have requirements such as diagnosing clients and dictating the therapy style professionals can use. Other therapist provide full-pay sessions that allow for more flexibility in holistic care. So depending on the counselor you may be responsible for your co-pay (and deductible, depending on your plan), or the full listed fee. Usually therapist take credit card, cash, or check.
3. How do I know my personal information will be kept private?
Licensed professional counselors are bound by law and ethics to keep your personal data, notes, and all other information safe and protected. This includes information stored in physical and technological means. We use HIPAA protected websites, video chats, emails, phones, and text apps to best protect you and your information. As licensed professionals we are also bound to keep information shared in sessions private. That means what you share in session, stays in session. The limitations to this protection are if you are planning on physically harming another person, are in danger of suicide, there is a disclosure of abuse or neglect of an older person, and if there is a disclosure of any sexual abuse or assault of a minor (under 18). These things would necessitate a breach in confidentiality. If you have any concerns about these don't hesitate to ask!
4. What should I expect for my first session?
Most likely your first session will be an "intake" session. This just means we want to get to know you. There may be some structured assessment for you to complete ahead of time or the therapist could ask you questions in session. Usually these cover your personal and family history of social and behavioral events as well as substance use and trauma. For the first session share what you think will be relevant to your therapy. You'll have time to share about what you want to work on in sessions, and what you're looking to get out of therapy. This is how you build a "treatment plan" or roadmap for your therapy. Make sure it's something you're committed to working on. This is a great space for you to ask any lingering questions or concerns and to iron out any details for sessions moving forward.
5. Do I need to bring anything?
On a basic level bring along any paperwork your therapist has sent you, and your preferred method of payment (bad form to forget to pay your therapist at the first session!). Aside from that, try to bring an open mind, a willingness to engage in a new and uncomfortable process, and have a few ideas in mind that you'd like to work through. We're happy to help you focus your thoughts but it helps if you've thought about it ahead of time.
Starting therapy can be unnerving, but hopefully this list has answered a few of your questions and helped boost your confidence. You deserve to get the support you're looking for so keep asking questions and continue on the journey!