What do I talk about in the first session?
When we first meet, my goal is to provide a place where you feel safe, and we lay the groundwork for building trust through getting to know each other. You might feel nervous. Some of you might feel elated since you are finally taking steps on a long standing problem. Some of you might be coming because someone else suggested to at least "check it out." You don't have to share your deepest darkest secrets.
The first session entails me informing you about who I am and what services I offer and going over mandatory information the state requires a counselor share with you. I'll be asking questions to clarify what your goal for counseling is. I do a diagnostic assessment at the first session which means I ask about your symptoms (anxious, depressed, trauma related) which points to a diagnosis. A diagnosis is required to bill insurance. I will let you know what diagnosis I am using. If you are private pay and coming for life coaching issues, a mental health diagnosis may not be necessary. I may still assess for a diagnosis at the first session anyway, as it guides the approach I may take during the counseling process.
IF you are coming for a diagnostic assessment, there will be questions about your past and present symptoms, previous diagnosis if any, current medication if any, if anyone else in the family has a diagnosis, and how symptoms are affecting your overall functioning. My intention is to get as clear of a picture as possible in the time we have of the issues and symptoms that are troubling you and to provide you with a some possible ways I might approach the identified issues. When you set up for the first appointment, I will send you a form that asks a few questions and has a checkbox symptom list which will make the first appointment go soother.
While we're talking I want you to be assessing me so you know if this is a good working relationship, do you think you can trust me? Is my style a good match for you? I will be checking to see if the issues you have fit my expertise. Expect the first session to be two hours. This may seem like a long time but this includes filling out paperwork that you would probably be filling out in a lobby. Following sessions are usually 50-60 minutes usually once a week to every other week. We'll figure out the frequency based on your needs and schedule.
My focus at all times is to assist you in building or rebuilding your resilience. I use a lot of metaphors, similes, and analogies. I listen for a few sessions focusing on understanding how you think about the world. I listen for your values and beliefs and don’t impose my values or beliefs on you. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I approach my job more like a guide, I hold the lamp when it’s dark to show the stumbling blocks. I compare my role as a counselor to Mary Poppins. She blew in on the wind to where she was needed, she got the job done with fun and efficiency, and she left when the time was right. That is what I will attempt to do, meet you where your needs are, work with you in a safe and efficient manner, and complete our counseling relationship when you are ready.
For those that like a professional description of the tools I use, I primarily use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behavior, using tools to elicit change in one will bring a change in another area.
I am in a 3 year training program for Somatic Experiencing (SE). Somatic experiencing focus on reintegrating the nervous system that may be stuck in a flight/fight/freeze mode after experiencing a traumatic or series of traumatic events.
I also use Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) which focuses on accepting two opposing thoughts at the same time.
Motivational Interviewing is a client centered approach that focuses on resolving ambivalence.
I’m highly influenced by my experience with the Psychosocial Rehabilitation model which focused on strengths and recovery along with goal setting and skills training.
I’ve always been what the mental health field calls "person centered." Besides the eclectic counseling skills I’ve accumulated over my career, I’ve also been trained in Healing Touch, an energy work modality that I don't use on a client in session, but I pull on some of the concepts when applicable. I can describe my methodology more in depth at our first appointment.