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Getting Ready For Your First Therapy Session

Ready to start therapy but feeling nervous? In this video, I will show you what it looks like and answer some of the most common questions people have about starting.

Hey there, my name is Lindsey Kingsley, and I'm a therapist at Shoreside Therapies. Many people are apprehensive about starting therapy but don't know what it is or what to expect. In this video, I'm going to answer some of the most common questions people have and show you what therapy looks like so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not it's right for you.

What does “therapy” look like?
What should I do if I’m nervous to start? Or don’t know where to start?
What can I do to get ready for my first session?
What to expect from my first therapy session?
What can I expect AFTER my first session?

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Video Transcript

Laurie: Hi, my name is Laurie Groh. I'm co-owner at Shoreside Therapies. Today we have Lindsey Kingsley with us again, hi! Thanks for being here!

Lindsey: Hi! So..

Laurie: So today... oh! I was just going to say probably the same thing you were, that today we're talking about what to expect on your first session for therapy and kind of go over some of those concerns that somebody might have when they are starting to do therapy.

Lindsey: Yeah! I was thinking of, you know, coming from the frame of reference that we get a lot of people where it's your first time in therapy. So this is just to kind of water it down so that we can talk about just the different vulnerabilities or apprehensions that people have in the common questions we get. So that's where we will start.

Laurie: Yeah, I think that's so useful because people will feel a little bit more comfortable with the process, especially if it's your first time, it's hard to know exactly what it's going to look like and feel like. All right, so, Lindsey, our first question is: what does therapy look like?

Lindsey: So I thought I'd start with just like common misconceptions, because I get a lot of it all the time from even my family. I feel like they still think that you know everyone's like lying on a couch and we're doing hypnosis, which it's not. It's come a long way, the evolution of therapy but it's not always psychoanalysis talking about your childhood, things like that. So I just want to kind of normalize that you know it's not. I think people have fears of just like being judged by their therapists or that they going to tell us something that, like you know, is going to have some shock value and it's just interesting to see it from the other perspective, because you know we see people all the time. There's not really anything you can say that would bring about a sense of, you know, shock. But I think it's just nervousness around, like you know, sharing certain things that are close to you.

Laurie: I think that's a good point. Is: is that a lot of times people will feel apprehensive about sharing something and I always let them know. I've heard a lot of things. You know also, and even if I haven't, that's still okay.

Lindsey: Yeah, yeah, I always just think of the comic strip of like the dog laying on the couch, like that's just like, I think a lot of perceptions, of what it is and it's not. It's more comfortable, I'd say laid-back, things like that. So a lot of the goals within therapy is to build insight and awareness into individuals themselves, their thoughts, emotions, just different behaviors, patterns, learn how to deal with different stressful situations, gaining perspective on areas in your life like careers, relationships, things like building confidence as well, you know, and just overall coping.

Laurie: Yeah, and trying new things and having that support and ideas. And yeah, it can be all of those things, it can be some of those things. It depends on the person.

Lindsey: Yeah, absolutely!

Laurie: So, all right, what should I do if I'm nervous to start or don't know where to start?

Lindsey: Yeah, yeah, definitely, so with Shoreside, we do offer 15 minute free consults. So I'd say: work with consultation, either a video or phone call. I think sometimes just meeting people face-to-face with video or even in person. So just talking about that. Just talk about your concerns, the feelings that you have. I know it's hard to do that. But I think once people share their concerns and we address those, that it gets a lot easier into weighing it out. Do I want to do this? Is this a good time? So kind of just like weighing out pros and cons of thereapy and you can do all that within the consultation. So you know, addressing those fears that you have.

Laurie: Yeah, I think that's a great thing for people to just get to know someone just a smidgen before they walk-in and and feel sort of that commitment of now I'm starting. They get to choose. They don't have to just go with whoever. That's another thing too with that is they do a couple of consults. I know at Shoreside everybody's okay with that. So even if there's people that you are like, oh, maybe I'll see them, maybe I'll see them. We all know that that's totally OK to do that and yeah, it's just a part of it.

Lindsey: No strings attached, yeah, and so you know, I think people often wonder like I don't know what to ask or they hesitate, and so you know things to ask your therapist could be: what's your therapeutic style? What are different populations you've worked with? What's your level of comfort, working with whatever issue, and just personality styles too. I think some people jive with either a more serious approach or less serious approach, and so everybody's different and it's hard to tell that without going in and instead just reading someone's profile. So like actually just sitting down with someone in person. You can really feel if it's a good fit or not, too.

Laurie: 100% and knowing that too, that that there's going to be somebody out there that is a fit for you.

Lindsey: Yeah!

Laurie: Sure, all right, next question. So what can I do to get ready for my first session? I get this question quite often.

Lindsey: Yeah, like thinking we need all these things ready and in order and things like that. So I think it's just more mentally, like getting ready. I always say just think about your commitment, like defining your goals. So what do you want to get out of therapy? Thinking about your history. So how long has this been going on? I've never had anyone come in with like a history or a timeline, but even just having a timeline like: well, this has kind of been happening for the past year or, just like you know, writing down whatever the issue is, things like that, or even just thinking about that. How long has this been going on for? I think just getting ready to learn new, different approaches or different ways of thinking, of ways to do things, just having an open mind. And I mean we'll do this throughout therapy. So no pressure, it doesn't have to be done on that first session. But thinking about your why? Why are we entering into therapy? Why now? Those types of things.

Laurie: Yeah, and I do also think it doesn't have to be the streamline 100% know everything. Like you said, most people don't come in with a timeline all set and ready to go. You can always kind of go back to it, and that's what I like about therapy too, is that it's not just this concrete... here is my stuff, please tell me what to do, that it's more in-depth and it can circle back and you don't have to know all of the answers in that session.

Lindsey: No.

Laurie: All right, so, speaking of that, what can I expect in my first session?

Lindsey: Yeah, so the first session is a lot of question asking, I would say, we do a primary assessment, so that's going through a lot of questions around your history. It's a thorough evaluation of things like what we call 'ADL's, activities of daily living. So in what ways does this issue or problem affect your work, hobbies, relationships, what are your areas of concern? What are your strength or needs? Things like that. We might ask about any past history and treatment or involvement with different types of therapies so that you can kind of know what would be a good direction to go. It's a lot of jargon, but it's called a psychosocial assessment and it's basically just your emotional, mental and physical wellbeing within different areas of your life.

Lindsey: So I'd say it's a lot of more information gathering, but I think clients forget, too, that it's two-sided. You can ask questions as well, like, I don't understand this. I don't understand why you're asking it. I always say I'd rather just hear the question or concern with what's going on and then we'll obtain goals. So treatment plan, what are your goals, what do you want to get out of therapy? Short-term/long term? And then you know, I always tell people, especially in that first session, if it's very intimidating, share as little or as much as you want. If you're not ready to share certain things or aspects, that is totally fine because it's an unfolding process throughout.

Laurie: Yeah, yeah, I think that is key- really understanding. You don't have to just unload everything. It's about your comfort level and, of course, as the process goes on, you know we might challenge you to share a little bit more or whatever, but that first session it's totally OK for you not to want to share everything.

Lindsey: Yeah!

Laurie: But, it is also meant for gathering information, so it is a good thing to have that back and forth.

Lindsey: Yeah, absolutely!

Laurie: All right, so what can I expect after my first session?

Lindsey: Yes, so I think coming in with realistic excitations, obviously we want to feel better, have a sense of relief. I think for some people if there's a diagnosis involved, like having a diagnosis or understanding our symptoms can provide a sense of relief like okay, well, you know I'm not just doing something wrong or, kind of understanding like ok, that's normal. This is healthy, this isn't healthy, those types of things and hopefully a little bit more hopeful that things can get better, that there is hope because you know as therapists always say, like we wouldn't sit in this role if we knew it wasn't going to work. So, knowing that there's a sense of hope, glimmer of hope, there's things that you can do. So within that, after the first session we make the treatment plan. We go over that collaboration between those goals. The therapist will discuss their general recommendations for care so they'll talk about kind of what to expect, how long therapy might take to see results for you. Skills that we might be working on, orientations with different types of therapy styles, and the biggest part is that collaboration, like a team, feeling like you have someone on your side in your corner that can help you with whatever concern it is that you came in with. You have someone that can understand and help alongside all of that.

Laurie: Yeah, and so Lindsey, for those of you that haven't maybe done therapy before, for your assessment, do you find that it takes maybe a few sessions before you gather all that information?

Lindsey: Correct, yeah, it's not like within one session we've got it all figured out. You know, I'd say, like those first three to four sessions is still getting to know you, getting to know your needs, what is helpful, what's not helpful and the more you share, that can only help the process for us making recommendations or finding a certain skill or style that is going to be the best fit.

Laurie: Yeah, because I do think too, sometimes people think things should be moving quicker, and so knowing that sometimes the information gathering takes longer or there might be some things that were missing yet in order to give that concrete, this is the direction we should be going.

Lindsey: Yes. Coming in with those realistic expectations that if this has been going on for a while, it might take a while, and so there might be some feelings of uncomfortability, we always talk about risks and that, and so I think, at least for myself, it's helpful to know like risks or what to expect, and so it may, like you said it may take some sessions for you to really start seeing results, or having more hope, things like that. So just come in with patience and, knowing that it can get, it can get better.

Laurie: Yeah, but yeah, you're right. It is so important to understand that those symptoms or what's been going on has been longer. And so to expect that you're going to make these changes within, you know, a few weeks. It's probably not realistic and I think it's important to know that, because otherwise you might be feeling bad about it. Or why am I not moving quicker? And it's important to be so patient with yourself in the process and, to, you know, make these little goals and track some of that too, to see where you're at and how far you're going.

Lindsey: I always say: be cautious of anything that's selling you on something that is some quick fix, because it's kind of like a bandage over a gigantic wound, like it might seem like it's working on the surface, but is it really internally sticking and working and long term going to be effective? So just being cautious with those things.

Laurie: Yeah, and the reverse too, right, like if somebody is feeling like a little bit more uncomfortable or that there's something where they're kind of feeling like I don't want to go any more, that that's a great thing to bring up to the therapist, because that usually is right before some big changes happen.

Lindsey: Yeah, that's when we see like prematurely people leaving when you're like, oh no, we were just the cusp of things! So really, patience, patience, patience: I can't say it enough and, like I said, if you, if it's a concern, bring it up. That's what we're here for, to talk about the concerns or whatever you're feeling like.

Laurie: All right, well thanks, Lindsey, so much. It was so awesome talking with you today.

Lindsey: Thank you.

Laurie: All right, and so if you want to get hold of Lindsay, you can go to our website, shoresidetherapies.com, and all our information is there. You can book a session right online, that free 15-minute consult as well, and we'll talk to you soon.

Lindsey: Alright, thank you!

Laurie: Bye!

Lindsey: Bye!

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