First session normally lasts 75 minutes and gives you time to express why you have come and what changes you are looking for. Some initial paperwork will be filled out so that you know what to expect and so that I can gain some added insight into your journey up to this point. Our first session will also include me asking questions about what supports you currently have, your interests, worries, strengths, values, etc. Dependent on the reason for seeking therapy, I may also ask you to complete a questionnaire, i.e. for anxiety or depression.
In our next session we will discuss more about your presenting issues that have led to your decision to attend counselling or psychotherapy; helping us to work collaboratively in setting goals for change and working on strategies to help you achieve them. These goals and strategies may change as we work through our sessions and learn about new issues or current issues which need more in-depth work. As we progress you will become more aware of your thoughts, perceptions and emotions and how they relate to your position in relationships, interactions and your life. As we move forward you will be better able to assess and react to relationships, life circumstances, and situations in your life that may prove challenging, or difficult to navigate. Continual feedback between you and I is a consistent measure of how you are progressing and measures the therapy process as we continue through sessions and move towards you independently navigating life circumstances.
I have often been asked about the difference between talking to a friend or talking to a therapist, favouring talking to the friend because of the comfort level and emotion involved. This is true, however that emotional connection often makes a friend want to “just make you feel better”, side with you and tell you you’re right, the other person is wrong. This is not saying that you don’t need your friends for support and to pick you up when you’re feeling down. I couldn’t have gotten through some very difficult times in my life without the support of my close friends. The difference between talking to a friend and talking to a therapist is that, although I will support you, and validate you, I will also help you challenge your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours to help discontinue patterns in your life that are causing you difficulties… and our conversations are confidential.
Therapists are trained to engage and listen in a way that helps you feel understood and validated, will help me gain a better understanding of your concerns, hopes, and goals, while feeling like you are having a normal conversation. I like to use humour and offer a casual atmosphere, so that you feel like you’re talking to a friend, while still instilling professional boundaries. Our conversations will have you doing most of the talking and me asking clarifying questions or making statements to help you dig deeper, challenge thoughts, use self-reflection, and increase your self-awareness. Our sessions and groups will also include “Psychoeducation” (learning what happens to your body during responses to anger, anxiety or trauma, understanding why we think the way we do, etc.), as well as “homework assignments” in between sessions to ensure that you are using the strategies consistently to ensure progress. Our conversation will also include reflection on what is working, what goals have been met, and next steps.