It is a very common question - what should I expect from my first meeting with my therapist? It is normal to feel nervous about this first meeting. Every therapist might have a slightly different approach in their pacing of the first session but the basic elements of the first session will be the same. Here are the steps you can expect from your first counseling session (typically called an “intake” session):
1. There will be intake paperwork to fill out.
One of the most important parts of the first therapy session, or the intake session, is the opportunity for your therapist to gather information about your history and reasons for seeking help in therapy. This most often begins with you filling out intake paperwork.
2. You will learn more about your rights as a client, especially your rights to confidentiality.
At the beginning of any intake session your therapist should explain your rights and limits to confidentiality in a way that you understand and feel comfortable with. This includes explaining confidentiality when the client is a minor.
3. Your therapist will explore more about your history by asking you questions.
The general categories of questions will be:
4. Your therapist will help you set treatment goals.
After spending time exploring and giving you the opportunity to express what you feel is important, you therapist will help you set treatment goals. This way you and the therapist can be on the same page in terms of what you would like to be working on together.
5. You and the therapist will set your next appointment.
If you express interest in continuing therapy, you and your therapist will work together to set the next time that you will come in.
Typically the intake session looks very different than the rest of the therapy sessions. Your therapist will most likely take notes during the intake session and may not continue to take notes during future sessions. The intake session may feel different than future sessions because the focus is typically information gathering with the potential for less focus on emotional processing of events. The intake session enables both you and the therapist to make an informed decision about goals for treatment and what the plan for treatment will look like going forward.
Note: Intake sessions for minors will typically look different than intake sessions for adults.
There have been a lot of tragic events happening in the news lately. Some of these events, such as the school shooting in Florida, may be impacting your children more than you know. Children may be consciously or unconsciously dealing with trauma or fear due to these events. How can you help your child process when something like this happens?
1. Validate your child's sadness:
Your child needs to know that feeling sad is a normal and okay reaction when something sad or scary happens. “What happened is really sad. Let’s talk about what makes you feel sad about what happened.” Too often we try to distract from sadness or make it go away. Allowing your child to experience sadness helps them learn that they can be sad and come out okay on the other side.
2. Validate your child's fear:
If your child is feeling fearful after hearing something on the news or at school: “That does sound really scary. I understand why you would feel afraid when you heard about that happening.” Of course we want to comfort children and we don’t want them to live in fear. We also want them to feel heard. We don’t want them to feel like being scared isn’t something they can talk to us about. Being scared isn’t shameful - and in many cases, being scared makes sense.
3. Be ready for tough questions:
“Why do bad people do things to hurt other people?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” These are just some of the many questions a child may have during a tragic event. Decide how you are going to engage with your child when they ask these questions. A simple answer like “I don’t know” may leave your child feeling unheard. If you don’t have a answer to the question your child has, try “I’m not sure, but let’s take some time and talk about this together.” Or “I’m not sure but let’s ask [a moral or spiritual authority].” By taking your child’s questions seriously, you demonstrate to them that you take them seriously and care about what they care about.
4. Don’t let your child live out of fear:
Just like being scared is okay, living scared isn’t. Living stressed and scared is tough on the body of anyone - especially a child. High levels of cortisol impact our immune system strength, can cause anger outbursts and other health and behavioral issues. Help your child learn how to find ways to conquer their fear and support them and encourage them as they do brave things.
5. Know when to seek additional help:
Sometimes grief, loss or worry can become too much for a child and parents to handle on their own. If after a few weeks you child’s behavior doesn’t return to normal or you fear that their behavior is harmful to themselves, seek outside help. Oftentimes counseling is a great place to start.
If you or a loved one are interested in the counseling process, please contact us at 706-310-9046.
Written by our counselors to help promote your help, hope, healing