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.