Tag: <span>Therapy</span>

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What Should I Expect?

The decision to seek out therapy is often one that is not made lightly.  Occasionally, people may grapple with this decision for quite some time before actually contacting a treatment provider.  There are many reasons for this. They may:

  • be unsure what to expect
  • feel nervous about what people will think of them
  • be concerned about therapist judging them
  • have financial obstacles
  • be concerned about repercussions if insurance “finds out” about their treatment

Although the list continues, I want to provide insight into what those of you, who may be new to seeking out therapy, can expect.  The goal of this post is to give a general outline of the therapy process. Ideally, you’ll make the decision to start therapy based on your needs and not on the above concerns.  

First Contact (Call or Email)

Typically, when you call to inquire about services, my first step is to understand if I would be able to help based on what concerns you have.  For example, I am highly specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety, OCD and related disorders. Therefore, if you call asking for help with alcohol addiction, I would not feel like the appropriate person to help.  If the concern is outside of my skill set, I discuss that and provide appropriate referrals I have that are better equip to meet your needs.

If you are in need of services that I provide, we then discuss the process of therapy (outlined more in this blog) and logistics.  This administration discussion includes fees and payment policies, questions regarding out-of-network benefits, scheduling, and method of meeting (i.e., virtual or in-person).  Other questions and concerns are answered and addressed so you can make an informed decision about proceeding with scheduling an appointment.  

The First Session

During the first session, you will be asked a number of questions.  Most health providers in various disciplines as many of the following basic questions.  They may include:

  • Why you’re looking for treatment
  • History of what you’ve been experiencing
  • Medical/medication questions
  • Family background
  • Education/Occupation background
  • Social support system

Now, these questions may seem like a lot, but they all serve a purpose.  One of the main goals is to understand what’s going on with you and the various ways your symptoms interfere, or don’t, in different parts of your life.  It also helps me understand you as a whole person and not just as the presenting.  I do my best to make this a comfortable discussion and try to keep things light hearted along the way, as I understand it may have taken quite a bit of bravery to take this step.

At the end of this session, the assessment may not be finished. Therefore, during the next session, I finish gathering necessary information to ensure that I have a full understanding of your concerns.  I do it this way to make sure that when we set out on our treatment path (discussed shortly), something else doesn’t unexpectedly come up that would’ve been helpful to know in the beginning.  This still happens and can be addressed effectively. However, the treatment plan will be more accurate if I have most of the information early in the process.  After we wrap up, I typically ask if you’re willing to schedule another appointment.  If you don’t feel comfortable with me, there is no pressure to schedule a second appointment.  This saves the hassle of you canceling later or showing up and feel uncomfortable.  If you agree to continue, we’ll schedule and you get your first homework assignment(s). That’s right…you get homework and I’ll explain why shortly 😉

Subsequent Sessions

After the completion of the assessment/intake questions, we develop your individualized treatment plan together.  This plan is specific to your personal goals you have for therapy.  There may be times when we have to discuss the goals you set. For example, we don’t want unattainable or unrealistic goals (i.e., never be anxious again).  Typically, I like to set goals that will help us understand if we are making progress in therapy. For example, get to sleep by 10pm 5 of 7 nights per week.  

Once we have agreed on the treatment goals, I will educate you on what we’ll be doing.  We will likely spend about one full session on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This gives you a good understanding of why we will approach your treatment goals using those techniques.  I’ll also teach you about anxiety/OCD/other presenting problem(s), again so you can see how CBT works toward meeting your specific treatment goals and better managing your symptoms.  

After we’ve developed the treatment plan and done the education, we begin with the treatment.  Treatment looks different for everyone based on individual symptoms and goals.  However, there will almost always be a homework component.  

Use of Homework in Therapy

Homework is a very useful tool for building new skills and learning new ways to respond to things.  Ultimately, CBT is a very active treatment process and homework helps you develop your skills between sessions.  As most of us know, the more you practice something, the better, and easier, it usually gets.  We apply this same idea to the skills and strategies learned in therapy as well.  Ideally, homework encourages treatment progress, so you can spend less total time in treatment.  

Getting Started

This may sound like a great plan, but it can still be pretty overwhelming to figure out where to start.  There are many ways to approach this daunting task.

  • Talk to friends or family who you know have been/are in therapy.  Even if their therapy focuses on something else, they can ask their therapist for an appropriate referral.  This way, you’re getting a name from a trusted source. 
  • Conduct an online search in your area.  This will provide a large number of responses, which can be difficult to sort through.  To narrow the results, put in specific search terms that detail the type of therapy you’re looking for (if you have this information), or the type of problem you’re experiencing. 
  • Post for a recommendation on a neighborhood/city social media page or email listserv if you have that available. 

Regardless of how you connect with a therapist, please ask them questions to make sure they are competent in what you’re seeking.  No matter who you see, you can always ask for, or look for, a new therapist if it isn’t a good fit.  This is your treatment and your life! As a therapist, most of us truly want to help you reach your goals and live the life you want!