Everyone can be nervous about the first appointment. And everyone has lots of questions—all kinds of questions. Can I find the office? Will I like the therapist? Will the therapist like me? Will the therapist help me? What do I talk about first? How long do I have to wait until I can expect some improvement? While the answers may be somewhat different from situation to situation, there are some generalizations we can make that may help in getting started.
In general, it is a good idea to come early for the first appointment so you don’t feel too rushed (see Office Locations and Phone Numbers) and you have plenty of time to fill out the forms needed before getting started. Download a copy of the Intake Forms, fill them out and bring them along.
At your scheduled time, your therapist will greet you in the waiting room and bring you to his or her office. A session is approximately 50 minutes long. Your therapist will want to learn about you and why you have decided to come for counseling. It will be helpful for you to provide a brief description of the issues that have brought you to counseling. Your therapist will ask follow-up questions to fill in some of the background and enrich his or her understanding of the issues.
At the beginning of the session, it may be helpful to remember that your therapist has literally spent years of training in listening and asking questions. You are not doing this alone. Your therapist is here to work with you in making this process a helpful, comfortable, and productive experience. We believe that counseling is a collaborative effort between you and your therapist.
The length of treatment depends on the problems being addressed, your motivation, the skill and experience of your therapist, the strength of rapport between you and your therapist, and the frequency of meetings which can affect the pace at which you and your therapist can work on problems. All of these things can be talked over with your therapist.
At a minimum, counseling can provide at least two things. First, counseling provides a safe place to talk over your difficulties with someone with some experience helping people. Second, counseling generally adds some clarity about decision-making options and provides a healthy place to brainstorm ideas about what to try next. Whatever the case, counseling can be tailored to your situation and together with your therapist, you can sort out the goals that will make counseling meaningful for you.