Your First Session With Me: How To Prepare & What To Expect

Before Session: Paperwork & Payment

Once you’ve made contact with me and scheduled your session, you should have an email in your inbox asking you to create a free account on my portal. This HIPAA-compliant portal system keeps your private information secure while also saving trees and time in the process. Once you’ve set up your account, I can send you my paperwork for you to fill out. All paperwork must be completed before our first session together for legal reasons but also so I get a chance to review your information before we meet. 

Payment is due in full the day of session so please make sure that you are prepared before session. Generally, your method of payment is something that we discuss when we schedule your session. More information regarding payment can be found on the rates section of my website and in my “Consent to Payment” form in my paperwork. I am also happy to address any questions and issues regarding payment before our session. 

Before Session: Preparing Your Therapy Space

It is vital that you have a private, quiet space for the duration of our session. Interruptions, distracting noise, and concerns of being overheard can be really detrimental to your therapy experience. I urge you to do what you can to prepare your space so you can get the most out of our time! 

Please ensure that the space you’re conducting therapy in is decently lit. For legal purposes, I have to be able to clearly see you during our session. I also recommend that you use headphones with a microphone attached so we can hear each other clearly. 

Before Session: Preparing Your Tech

It is important to make sure that whatever platform you will be using is functional before our session, meaning your device is operating well and you have a good WiFi signal. In the event of a technical difficulty on my end, it will be your choice whether you would like to continue the session via phone call or if you would like to reschedule. Technical issues have been a very rare occurrence for me. I am typically able to let you know about issues in advance in order to reschedule. 

I am not able to do first sessions exclusively by phone call. For legal reasons I mentioned above, I have to make visual contact with my clients. The phone call option is only available during first sessions should a technical issue arise mid-session after we’ve already established visual contact. If technical issues occur before our first session begins and I am unable to establish that visual contact, we will have to reschedule. In general, phone call sessions are only available for established clients and at my discretion. 

Our First Session Begins!

A few minutes before our session, I will text you to ask whether you’re ready to begin. When I get a text confirming that you’re ready, I will either send you a link to session or call. At the beginning of session, I will introduce myself and explain your confidentiality rights as a client. If there are no questions regarding your rights or any other questions you have for me before we begin, I will begin.

This first session is more structured than how our sessions will typically be. I’ll be asking a lot of questions regarding your background. Depending on what you are coming to therapy for, this might be the only time we delve too deeply into your past. It’s important to me that my clients feel that I am addressing concerns that are relevant and impacting them in the present. Even during this first session where I’m gathering your history, I always make sure to save time to discuss what you’re struggling with now and steps we can take to address those issues. 

During this first session, I also ask about your prior experiences in therapy or with mental health treatment. If you’ve never been to therapy, I ask about your expectations and impressions of therapy from an outside perspective. I want to get a sense of what works and doesn’t work for you in order to tailor my approach to meet your needs. I also ask about your existing coping skills or things you’ve tried that didn’t work so I don’t suggest anything redundant. I also want to see if there are some existing skills that are really working for you so we can possibly expand on them or enhance them. As a therapist, it’s important to me that my clients feel that their time spent in therapy was a valuable investment. Even during our first meeting, I am constantly thinking of ways that I can optimize our time together.

Ending Our First Session

When we reach the end of our session, I’ll ask if you have any other questions for me or if there is anything else you think I should know about you that I haven’t asked about. At this stage, I will typically give you some insight into how I will help you address your goals and what our next steps would be in the therapy process if you decide to continue working with me. Then we’re done! (Sort of)

The very last thing I will ask you is whether you would like to schedule your next session or if you’d like to wait. Choosing a therapist to work with is an important decision. I always make sure my clients have the space and time they need to decide if they would like to continue working with me without feeling pressured to make a follow-up appointment on the spot. I might also ask how frequently you would like to meet (weekly, every other week, monthly). If you’re not sure, I usually make a recommendation based off the issue you are facing and what I believe is the most productive frequency based off experience. However, scheduling and the frequency of our sessions is always your decision to make. I will also let you know if I foresee any upcoming changes in my availability or schedule so that you can prepare accordingly.

Last Thoughts & Things to Keep in Mind

Like I mentioned earlier, the first session together is different than a typical session. It’s longer, structured, and can be more past-oriented. There is something I want every new client to know (especially if you’ve never gone to therapy before): it’s typical to feel at least a little drained after a first session. You’re meeting a brand new person and giving them a lot of personal information, some of which might be difficult to remember or can bring up a lot of emotions. Trusting a stranger and being open about yourself can be exhausting. However, being little emotionally exhausted isn’t always a bad thing! I’d compare it to the feeling you get after vigorous exercise. It’s a “healthy tired”.

If you are concerned you might feel drained after the first session, prepare accordingly. After the appointment, do something nice for yourself or leave time in your schedule to relax and recharge. Feeling this way after your first session doesn’t mean that therapy isn’t going to work for you or that you’ll always leave future therapy sessions feeling tired. From what I’ve observed, my clients end a typical session with me feeling a sense of peace or enthusiasm.

Remember that starting therapy is an act of bravery. It’s something worth being proud of. As long as you’re being open and honest, there’s no “right way” to participate in therapy. You’re not being graded or judged. I admire each and every one of my clients for believing that they can improve their lives and trusting me to hear their story.

What is the difference between therapy and coaching?

Both counseling and coaching are effective methods used to help individuals achieve their goals related to personal growth.

Counseling or therapy (the terms can be used interchangeably) directly addresses mental health issues that are impairing an individual’s ability to function such as trauma, depression, anxiety, etc. The focus of therapy is on healing and often involves processing past issues in order to reach a sense of resolution. Therapy tends to be an introspective process, meaning the progress and results of therapeutic treatment revolve around an individual’s inner, emotional world. In order to practice therapy, you need a master’s degree at minimum and a license to practice in the state that you are conducting therapy in.

Life coaching focuses on maximizing your potential, moving forward, and being future-oriented rather than healing or processing the past. Coaching helps individuals realize the vision they have for their lives and identify the action steps needed to achieve their vision. Coaches provide support, accountability, and problem solving strategies to help their clients move past obstacles to accomplish their goals. Although life coaches are unable to diagnose or directly address mental health conditions, the coaching process still has the ability to improve an individual’s quality of life in a powerful way. Many therapists often employ coaching techniques in their counseling work and some therapists (like me) also do life coaching work in addition to traditional mental health counseling.

 If you’d like more clarity on the differences between coaching and counseling or to schedule an initial session, feel free reach out to me through my contact page.

Why online therapy might be right for you

Every person deserves to have access to quality therapy but being bound to a physical location can limit you from receiving the kind of help you need. Studies have shown that online counseling is just as effective (if not more, in some cases) than traditional in-person therapy. Online counseling can be used as treatment for a wide variety of concerns including anxiety, depression, and relationship issues. While everyone can benefit from the convenience of working with an online therapist, the benefits could be even greater depending on your location and circumstances. Online counseling might be right for you if…

You have a busy schedule, work non-traditional hours, or travel often

It can be difficult to tell if therapy is effective if your schedule prevents you from regularly attending sessions. Since I began my online practice, I’ve had much fewer cancellations than when I worked at a traditional office due to my clients being able to schedule a session with me when it is most convenient for them. With flexible scheduling and the ability to connect virtually, all the client really needs to worry about is making sure they have a private, quiet space for an hour.

You live in an area where it’s difficult to travel for therapy

Whether it’s distance or heavy traffic, a challenging commute can be a barrier to seeing a therapist in person. Traveling or organizing a ride eats away at your valuable time and can turn the counseling process into yet another frustrating chore. Online therapy eliminates this inconvenience so you can focus on getting the most out of your experience.

You have difficulties finding childcare in order to attend therapy

This struggle especially impacts single parents and new parents. The hassle and expense of finding childcare prevents many people from attending therapy during a time when they may need it most. It can also be difficult to concentrate on self-care when you are worried about leaving young children at home. Online therapy allows you to get the help you need in your own space so that you can focus on prioritizing your needs in session.

You have a medical condition that prevents you from attending therapy

Medical concerns can be a huge barrier to adequately addressing mental or emotional issues through counseling. The symptoms of a chronic illness can be unpredictable and debilitating. Any medical condition that limits your mobility can make physically attending therapy a hardship. The option to forgo counseling often leads to an increase in psychological distress that can aggravate medical conditions. Online therapy has the potential to disrupt this negative feedback loop so that clients with medical conditions can still work to achieve their counseling goals without the physical strain of attending therapy in person.

You have privacy concerns

As much as society has embraced mental health treatment in recent years, there is still a stigma around seeing a therapist. If you work in a certain profession or live in an insulated community, you may have concerns about being seen physically attending therapy. Although there is nothing shameful about going to counseling, online therapy can be a way for you to get help privately without the added anxiety of walking into an office. 

The options for therapy are limited in your community

The recipe for success in therapy relies heavily on one crucial ingredient: the relationship you have with your therapist. Finding an online therapist that is the best match for your needs can allow you to have an optimal experience without being limited by location.

You care about the environment.

By eliminating the commute, you’re choosing the greenest option when you meet with a therapist online vs. in an office.


Therapy for Busy People