Many of us have fears, preconceptions, or even no idea at all about what therapy will be like the first time we try it. Hopefully this article can shed some light on what therapy is actually like. And we would also encourage you to reach out and ask a therapist (especially one whose bio page seems like they might be a good fit for you) any questions you have about what therapy with that person will be like.
There aren’t many universal truths about what you can expect at your first therapy appointment, since each therapist has their* own way of approaching their work. But here are some things that may happen in your first session here at PhIIRST:
– When you make your first appointment, your therapist will ask you to fill out our intake form before your first session.
– When you arrive for your appointment, you’ll just walk through our front door once you’ve reached the 22nd floor and make yourself comfortable in our waiting room. We have an electronic receptionist — just push the button next to your therapist’s name to let them know you’ve arrived. While you wait for your appointment, there’s a large selection of magazines to look through as well as complimentary Wi-Fi, coffee, tea, and water. There’s also a private, non-gendered, and disability-compatible restroom for your use.
– Your therapist will come out to get you when it’s time, and you’ll walk together to their office and settle in for the session. You can bring your coffee or tea with you if you like. The office is really just a room with comfortable seating, a desk, and a bookshelf. You can sit however you want to sit.
– Your therapist will likely remind you that what you talk about in session is completely confidential with a few legal and ethical exceptions, which will be explained to you (and which are outlined in our consent to treatment document). If you have any questions about those policies, you’re absolutely encouraged to ask!
– Your therapist might discuss any other policies they have (cancellation, payment, session length, scheduling, or other ‘frequently asked questions’). This all only takes a few minutes.
– Then, depending on the level of crisis that you’re currently experiencing, your therapist might review with you their particular style of therapy, discuss your intake form with you, begin a more thorough assessment of your history, or just ask you what brings you here today. From there on, it’s a conversation and there are no right or wrong things for you to say — the only thing you can do ‘wrong’ at that point is to be dishonest, and in doing so you would only impede yourself. If there is something about your therapist that seems like it would get in the way of you feeling comfortable being honest, you can say so, and your therapist may be able to help you feel more comfortable. Or you can continue your search for a therapist that you’ll feel comfortable with. Sometimes it takes more than one try to find the right fit.
– Your therapist may or may not take notes, depending on their treatment style. These notes are also entirely confidential unless you consent to their release, and they are kept under double lock and key. (There are separate, likely less detailed notes your therapist makes, called treatment notes; these are also confidential and under double lock and key unless you consent to their release, or unless your therapist is durably court-ordered to release them).
– Yes, your therapist will have have tissues if you need them. And no, you’re not obligated to cry.
– You’ll pay for your session at the end, generally, and you pay your therapist directly. PhIIRST’s therapists all accept checks, cash, and credit or debit cards, including FSA (flexible spending account) and HSA (health savings account) debit cards; some also accept PayPal and other similar forms of payment.
– If you want to, you’ll schedule your next session (or agree on a consistent time and frequency to meet).
– You can leave through a side door to go directly back out to the elevators, or exit through the waiting room; it’s your choice, and your therapist can show you the way.
* We promise, we’re using ‘their’ in the gender-neutral sense, not out of ignorance of grammar!