What to Expect in Your First Therapy Session
Are you about to go to a therapist for the first time? Whatever your reason
for seeking help, you will be more at ease and get better results if you know
what to expect.
In your first session, the therapist typically will ask certain questions
about you and your life. This information helps her make an initial assessment
of your situation.
Questions she might ask include:
Why you sought therapy.
particular issue probably led you to seek counseling. The therapist has to
understand your surface problem(s) before she can get to the deeper issues.
Your personal history and current situation. The therapist
will ask you a series of questions about your life. For example, because family
situations play an important role in who you are, she’ll ask about your family
history and your current family situation.
Your current symptoms. Other than knowing the reason you
sought therapy, the therapist will attempt to find out if you’re suffering from
other symptoms of your problem. For example, your problem might be causing
difficulty at work. The therapist will
use this information to better understand your problem.
Don’t just sit there
Therapy is a team effort. If you don’t take an active part in the session,
you won’t find the counseling experience valuable. Here are some things you can
do to make your first session as successful as possible.
Therapists are trained to ask the right questions,
but they’re not mind readers. The therapist can do her job more effectively if
you answer the questions openly and honestly.
Be prepared. Before you get to the session, know how to
describe “what’s wrong,” and to describe your feelings about your problem. One
way to prepare is to write down the reasons you’re seeking help. Make a list
and then read it out loud. Hearing yourself say it a few times will help you
describe things more clearly to the therapist.
Ask questions. The more you understand the counseling
experience or how counseling works, the more comfortable you’ll be. Ask
questions about the therapy process, and ask the therapist to repeat anything
you don’t understand.
Be open and honest about your feelings. A lot will be going
through your head in this first session. Listen to your own reactions and
feelings, and share them with the therapist. You’ll both learn from these
Be sure to go to your first session with realistic expectations. Therapy is
not a quick fix for your problem, rather it is a process. With some effort on
your part and a strong relationship with your therapist, it can be a successful
tool toward resolving problems.
Therapy is a
Expectations of therapy: Each individual
brings individual needs and skills to the therapy process; accordingly we will
develop the style of therapy that best meets the needs, resources and goals of
treatment. The therapeutic process aims to help clients to help themselves, by
facilitating a deep awareness of what is actually troubling them and by helping
to empower and direct them to make the appropriate changes.
Sometimes therapeutic interventions may be
paradoxical. There may also be homework between
sessions; reading, practice or behavioral change which can be a positive supplement
to the therapeutic process.
Possible types of
- Individual therapy,
which explores the root of feelings and behavior, is traditionally a
safer, more secure option to working with the entire family at once.
Treatment with individuals helps facilitate a thorough focus on the most
important emotions beneath the individual's symptoms.
- Family therapy
is a powerful way of repairing the damaging effect of long-term
problematic interactions. Over time, maladaptive communication patterns
drive a wedge between family members, resulting in the members becoming
disconnected from one another, or overly involved with one another in an
unhealthy manner. Therapy would consider each member's role in the
symptomatic interactions, versus assuming any single member is responsible
for the family's issues.
therapy, focuses on unconscious processes as they are manifested in a
person’s present behavior. The goals of psychodynamic therapy are a client’s
self-awareness and understanding of the influence of the past on present
behavior. In its brief form, a psychodynamic approach enables the client to
examine unresolved conflicts and symptoms that arise from past dysfunctional
relationships and manifest themselves in the need and desire to abuse
interprets mindfulness as a state of active, open attention on the present. When
you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance,
without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you
by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
According to Object Relationspsychology, human beings are always shaped in relation to the significant
others surrounding them. Our struggles and goals in life focus on maintaining
relations with others, while at the same time differentiating ourselves from
others. The internal representations of self and others acquired in childhood are later played out in adult relations.
Individuals repeat old object relationships in an effort to master them and
become freed from them. The self is perceived in relation to the establishment
of boundaries and the differentiations of self from others (or the lack of
boundaries and differentiations).
on the interpersonal relationships of the client - symptoms are treated by
improving the communication patterns and how people relate to others.
Techniques of interpersonal therapy include:
- Identification of
Emotion — Helping the person identify what their emotion is and
where it is coming from.
Example — Roger is upset and
fighting with his wife. Careful analysis in therapy reveals that he has begun
to feel neglected and unimportant since his wife started working outside the
home. Knowing that the relevant emotion is hurt and not anger, Roger can begin
to address the problem.
- Expression of Emotion
— This involves helping the person express their emotions in a healthy
Example — When Roger feels
neglected by his wife he responds with anger and sarcasm. This in turn leads
his wife to react negatively. By expressing his hurt and his anxiety at
no longer being important in her life in a calm manner, Roger can now make it
easier for his wife to react with nurturance and reassurance.
- Dealing With
Emotional Baggage — Often, people bring unresolved issues from
past relationships to their present relationships. By looking at how these
past relationships affect their present mood and behavior, they are in a
better position to be objective in their present relationships.
Example — Growing up, Roger’s
mother was not a nurturing woman. She was very involved in community affairs
and often put Roger’s needs on the back burner. When choosing a wife, Roger
subconsciously chose a woman who was very attentive and nurturing. While he
agreed that the family needed the increased income, he did not anticipate how
his relationship with his own mother would affect his reaction to his wife
working outside the home.
person’s symptoms as taking place in the larger context of the family. For
example, just as a particular department in a business organization may suffer
because of the problems in another department, a person with depression may be
responding to larger family issues. For example, a depressed adolescent’s
symptoms may be related to her parents’ marital problems.
Family therapy is a style where cognitive, behavior or interpersonal therapy
may be employed. However, it is most often used with interpersonal therapy. Some
special techniques of family therapy include:
- Genogram — A
genogram is a family tree constructed by the therapist. It looks at past
relationships and events and what impact these have on the person’s
current emotional technique.
- Systemic Interpretation
— Views presenting issues as a symptom of a problem in the larger family.
Example — 16-year-old Billy’s
getting into trouble in school and staying out at night are viewed as
unconscious attempts to shore up his parents’ failing marriage. It is noted in
the sessions that the only time his parents get along and work together as a
team is when they are dealing with Billy’s problems.
Training — Dysfunctional communication patterns within the family
are identified and corrected. People are taught how to listen, ask
questions and respond non-defensively.
There are many other theoretical orientations which
may influence your specific needs in treatment at Oceanside Family Therapy. We offer a non-pathologizing and non-blaming approach to treatment, which focuses on empowering individuals in breaking maladaptive patterns of behavior with an individualized treatment plan.
There are no specific amounts of sessions to commit to. Sessions can be either be scheduled regularly or simply as needed. Our goal is to provide support and growth for our clients to benefit with minimum care, not to become dependent on therapy. When life stress increases, our clients know that they can always reach out to schedule with us, regardless of how long it has been since the last session.
Psychodynamic needs are often initially scheduled weekly, however, Brief Strategic Family Therapy sessions are very effective one time per month for up to 12 months.