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Psychotherapy 101

What to Expect During Your First Therapy Session

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Updated June 04, 2014

You've made the appointment, so now what can you expect from your first visit? How can you best be prepared?

What Will Probably Happen

You were probably informed about financial arrangements when you made the appointment. When you arrive, you will be asked for any financial documentation that was requested, such as insurance cards, who is responsible for payments, etc. There will be some paperwork to fill out.

Your first session with the therapist will be different from future visits. The initial visit is a period for you and your therapist to get to know each other and get an idea where to proceed. Future visits will be more therapeutic in nature.

Keep in mind that psychotherapy is a long-term process so don't expect any instant solutions to your problems the first day. Therapy is about equipping you with life-long solutions rather than a quick fix.

During the first session, you will be asked about what brings you to therapy. You will be asked what you feel is wrong in your life, any symptoms you are experiencing and your history. History-taking may cover such things as your childhood, education, relationships (family, romantic, friends), your current living situation and your career. You may discuss the length of your treatment, the methods to be employed and patient confidentiality as well. When the therapist finishes, you may be asked if you have any questions.

Important Questions for You to Ask

According to the Ontario Association of Consultants, Counsellors, Psychometrists and Psychotherapists, the following are the top ten questions you will want to ask during your first visit. Use this as a check list of what goals you should achieve during the session. Many of these will probably be covered without your asking; but, if not, don't be afraid to ask.

  • What is your academic background and what has your training been to prepare you to practice as a therapist?
  • What specialized training and/or experience have you had in working with the issue I am dealing with?
  • What professional associations do you belong to?
  • What are your fees? How will my insurance claim be handled? (preferably fees and potential insurance coverage should be discussed on the phone prior to making the first appointment)
  • What type of therapy do you do? (mostly talking, role-playing, visualizing, hypnosis, artwork, "body -work")
  • What are your office protocols? ( booking appointments, payment for missed appointments, emergencies, building access after hours, etc.)
  • I would like a brief explanation as to what I can expect to happen in my sessions.
  • How long will each session last?
  • How many sessions will it take to resolve my issue?
  • How will my confidentiality be assured?
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