What to Expect
Maybe you’ve never engaged the services of a psychotherapist. Or perhaps you have, but are looking to work with someone new. In either case, it’s worth taking a moment to get a better idea of how I work, and what to expect from the counseling process in general.
At the first session
I’ll ask you lots of questions — about your background, your family, your current situation. Most importantly, I’ll want to hear from you about what motivated you to seek out a counselor, what your concerns are, and what changes you’re wanting to make. Together, we’ll come up with a plan that will help you move forward in your life.
You don’t need to know what “the problem” is, necessarily;
you may or may not have figured it out yet. Some people walk into my office knowing exactly what their issues are and what actions they need to take. They are in the small minority. If you’re like most people, there’s a lot of overwhelming and often conflicting stuff to sort through. A big part of my job is to cut through the clutter, figure out what details are relevant, and what to focus on. This is so hard to do when you’re in the middle of it — which is why getting feedback and perspective from a counselor is so valuable.
The length and frequency of the process is up to you.
I usually recommend beginning with weekly sessions, so that we can create some momentum and get to know each other more fully. This is not always possible for all my clients, so I’m flexible and we’ll always schedule our time with your needs and constraints in mind.We will work together to reach goals you’ve identified, and this takes only as long as you need to get there. We’re done when you feel you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. You’ll decide — and you’ll know.
Confidentiality is crucial.
It’s important that my clients know their information stays with me and doesn’t get shared unless and until they give written permission to share it. So, if someone else requests records or information from me, it would only be given with your okay. I don’t have any contracts with insurance companies, so there’s no third-party payer we’re having to communicate with. Clients under the age of 18 deserve the same respect for their privacy; I will not share details of conversations I have with kids or adolescents with their parents unless harm to themselves or others is involved, or unless those young clients give me permission to do so.
We’ll talk about your past, but not at the expense of moving forward.
Many people believe that participating in therapy is all about delving endlessly into their childhoods (maybe because, for some therapists, it is). Of course, there’s a lot of useful insight to be gained by learning how our past experiences and relationships inform our current situations. But I will always keep the focus on how these insights can help you make positive changes in your life right now. Just as in driving a car: the rear view mirror is essential, but to get where you want to go, your attention has to be on the road ahead.
Talking to a counselor is very different than talking to a friend.
I’m friendly! I promise! But here’s the thing: I’m neutral, I have no “agenda” when I’m talking to you, and I have no stake in the choices you ultimately make. This is where the power of the therapeutic relationship lies. The relationship is based on honest, unbiased feedback given in a supportive way, and on the promise that you’ll always have my full attention and my focus on your goals. . . Friends and family can also offer incredible support and guidance, but their own needs and wishes are always present in conversations with them. Even the most well-meaning people in our lives aren’t necessarily able to help us sort through things that they’ve got their own messy feelings about.