What to Expect From Therapy
During the first few sessions I will be gathering information about you. When you first arrive, you will be asked to fill out a few standard forms; including insurance and confidentiality forms. Please note that if you choose to use insurance, a mental health diagnosis will be determined. This diagnosis will become part of your medical record and can impact your ability to obtain health and/or life insurance in the future. For children, adolescents, and teens it could impact acceptance into college or some career choices. If you can arrive 10-15 minutes early for your first appointment to complete those form, it will give us the opportunity to spend the entire session focusing on establishing rapport, education, and a goal or direction for therapy.
Parents, you are invaluable source of information. Please plan to be part of the first (intake) session.
Please remember this time is for you to work on your goals. I will not tell you what to do; nor make any decisions for you unless mandated by law. My goal is to help you process thoughts and feelings; offer a different perspective and tools; and maintain nonjudgmental dialog about ongoing issues.
Initially, I ask that clients attend therapy once a week for at least one month. This maintains relationship, consistency, focus, and forward motion. Some people would rather come twice a week. After the initial month, if you would like to come every other week, that option would be part of our discussion. You are the expert on your life and how you process thoughts and feelings; I help clarify and guide those thoughts and feeling. Please trust yourself as to how often you want to schedule an appointment.
I view therapy as a partnership between us. You define the problem areas to be worked on; I use my education and knowledge to help you make the changes you want to make. Therapy requires your very active involvement. It requires your best efforts to change thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. For example, I want you to tell me about important life experiences, what they mean to you, and what feelings are involved. This is one of the ways you are an active partner in therapy. I will not always be a part of your life. I want each client to be able to use the tools discussed and feel empowered to manage the issues that brought them into therapy. I expect us to plan our work together and to agree on goals that we will both work hard to follow. During this process we will reevaluate to make sure we are both on the same page.
An important part of your therapy will be practicing new skills that you will learn in our sessions. I will ask you to practice outside our sessions and we will work together to set up homework assignments. I might ask you to do exercises, keep records and perhaps to do other tasks to deepen your learning. You will most likely have to work on relationships and make long-term efforts to get the best results. These are important parts of personal change. Change will sometimes be quick and easy, but more often it will be slow and frustrating, and you will need to keep trying. There are no instant, painless cures and no “magic pills.” However, you can learn new ways of looking at your challenges that will be very helpful for managing your feelings and behaviors.
At some point, therapy comes to an end. Termination is a very valuable part of our week. Stopping therapy should not be done casually, although either of us may decide to end it if we believe it is in your best interest. If you wish to stop therapy at any time, I ask that you agree now to meet for a least one additional session to review our work together. This includes our goals, the work we have done, any future work that needs to be done, and our choices. If you would like to take a “time out” from therapy to try it on your own, we should discuss this. Together we can often make such a “time out” more helpful.
I will either hand you or mail you a Client Satisfaction Questionnaire. These questions will ask you to look back at our work together. The suggestions you make also help me continue to educate myself and become a more helpful therapist. I ask that you agree, as part of entering therapy with me, to return this questionnaire and to be very honest about your comments. You can remain anonymous.
Benefits and Risks of Therapy
As with any powerful treatment and the expectation of change, there are some benefits and risks. Please carefully consider them. For example, in therapy, there is a risk that clients will, for a time, have uncomfortable levels of sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger, frustration, loneliness, helplessness, or other negative feelings. Clients may recall unpleasant memories. These feelings or memories may bother a client at work or school. In addition, some people in your community may mistakenly view anyone in therapy as weak, or perhaps seriously disturbed or even dangerous. Also, clients in therapy may have problems with people important to them. Family secrets may be told. Therapy may disrupt a marital relationship and sometimes may even lead to divorce. Sometimes, too, a client’s problems may temporarily worsen after the beginning of treatment. For trauma and abuse survivors, nightmares, triggers, and flashbacks may increase. Most of these risks are to be expected when people are making important changes in their lives. In therapy, major life decisions are sometimes made including the development of other relationships, changing employment settings, and changing lifestyles. These decisions are a legitimate outcome of the therapy experience. As your therapist, I will walk alongside you and discuss any outcome of change. Finally, even with our best efforts, there is a risk that therapy may not work out well for you.
While you consider these risks, you should know that the benefits of therapy have been shown by scientists in hundreds of well-designed research studies. People who are depressed may find their mood lifting. Others may no longer feel afraid, angry, or anxious. In therapy, people have a chance to talk things out fully in a safe environment until their feelings are relieved or their issues become more manageable. Clients’ relationships and coping skills may improve greatly. They may get more satisfaction out of social and family relationships. Their personal goals and values become clearer. They may grow in many directions—as persons, in their close relationships, in their work or schooling, and in the ability to enjoy their lives.
I do not take on clients I do not think I can help. Therefore, I will enter our relationship with optimism about our progress. I am not in control of the outcome of therapy. The hope is for resolution. What that resolution looks like is different for everyone. I cannot promise a cure; but again I can offer hope that with the changes you are making with your personal growth; the calm, peace and satisfaction you desire from life becomes reality.