First Session Therapy: Owning Therapy for Ourselves

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Many clients who come into the therapy room voice out a common struggle: they feel incapable of making the right choices for themselves, whether it is not knowing what they want, not having the power to make decisions for themselves or feeling afraid of making the wrong choice in life.

This happens a lot to new clients looking for the right therapist too. Coming into therapy may already be a big step. If they cannot “click” with the therapist, they may find therapy a disempowering experience.

Healing begins when we know owning our decisions is now a possibility.

It is empowering when we know that we are capable of making choices freely, and even when wrong choices are made, we can be responsible for them.

To feel empowered and be active agents in our lives does not begin when we start therapy. It starts from the time we are considering seeing one and going through the process of choosing the right therapist for ourselves.

Here are some tips to consider when choosing a therapist:

  1. Know the different types of therapies available. Not all therapies work the same way. Some are more solution focused while others are more exploratory. They cater to different client needs and preferences. Educating ourselves on the different modalities and how they work will help us begin on the quest of asking what is right for us. Read here to learn more about how different therapists work:
  • Explore the self. Before embarking on therapy, it is important to ask oneself these questions:
    • Is it the right time for me to have therapy now? Although we may need or want therapy, it may not be the right time. And that’s alright! Sometimes, work, family commitments or studies are in the way and it is not the right time.For therapy to work, we need it to make it a priority to work on ourselves. It is a good idea to discuss with your therapist about the commitment level within therapy to help you answer this question.
    • What are my expectations and goals of therapy?
    • How would I like my therapist to work with me? We are all different and may have different preferences. To help you consider, you can start considering from these 4 areas:
      • Therapist Directiveness vs. Client Directiveness
      • Emotional Intensity vs. Emotional Reserve
      • Past Orientation vs Present Orientation
      • Warm Support vs. Focused Challenge
  • Get a sense of how the therapist works. Most therapists these days offer an assessment. This session allows the therapist to get to know the client and his or her needs better. However, just as much as a therapist has the know how to assess the client, it is important that the client chooses the therapist as well. Not all therapists have the same style even if they work with the same modality. We are persons after all and our own personalities and preferences come into play in the therapeutic work.

I often tell my clients in our first meeting that it is important for them to get a feel of me in the room, go home and reflect on the session before deciding if they feel comfortable enough for me to support them. Clients are also encouraged to ask their therapists questions on how they work.

Yes, you are allowed to interview your therapist. In fact, you are encouraged to.

Some useful areas to ask include:

  1. Therapeutic contract: this includes areas like number of sessions, where and when will sessions be held, session fees and payment terms, cancellation and session rescheduling terms. This will help you get a sense of the commitment level therapy requires from you.
  2. Philosophy of care: It is important that the client feels safe with the therapist. Equally, it is essential that the client agrees with the therapist’s philosophy of care. If we are advocates for natural healing, we are not going to see a doctor who pushes for us to take medication each time we see them. This is the same when we choose a therapist. Thus, it is important that clients have some idea of their goals, expectations and preferences before going into their first meeting with the therapist.
  3. Therapist’s training and experience: Are they a licensed therapist? Licensed by which licensing body? What do they specialise in? How long have they been working as a therapist?

Receiving therapy is like getting a gift for ourselves. If we are already committed to working on ourselves, we deserve the best.

At Encompassing Therapy and Counselling, all new clients go through the First Session Therapy where the above considerations will be explored. Take your time to find the right therapist. Starting this process is already a step into your therapeutic journey towards healing.

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