What to Expect Starting Therapy

Starting therapy is a big (+ exciting + potentially nerve-racking) deal.

Thinking about starting therapy? First of all, you should know it’s common to feel a range of emotions. You may be feeling excited about getting started. You may be feeling nervous about opening up to a new person. Maybe you have mixed feelings — you’re eager to make a change but anxious about what that might actually look like in your life.

If you’re feeling uncertain about what to expect from the “getting started” process itself, this post is for you. While every therapist works a little differently, below I give you a behind-the-scenes look at what my own clients can expect.

Here’s what to expect when starting therapy:

Intake Paperwork

After our initial consultation, I’ll send over your intake paperwork through our secure client portal. Your intake paperwork will include:

  • documents that outline my specific practice policies in detail (so you can make a fully informed decision before officially deciding to work together).
  • information about my privacy practices (so you know your rights and my responsibilities re: your protected health information).
  • questionnaires about your strengths, challenges, and goals (to help me understand your unique circumstances and help us create a plan for our work together).
  • a demographics form (to note your basic information and emergency contact).
  • your credit card information (to check “pay for therapy” off your to-do list with automatic payments).

Have a question about something in your intake paperwork? No problem — we’ll have a chance to talk about everything in more depth during our first session.

Assessment

Your first few therapy sessions will be focused on assessment. We’ll dive deeper into what you shared in your intake paperwork, paying special attention to:

  • your strengths (what’s going well, self-care strategies you’re already using, current supports).
  • your challenges (your current stressors, any mental health symptoms you’re experiencing, how those stressors/symptoms impact your day-to-day life).
  • whether you meet criteria for any particular mental health diagnosis (if you’re curious — feel free to ask about my approach to diagnosing during our initial consultation).

Aside from helping me to get to know you a little better, the assessment phase of starting therapy is also a really good opportunity for you to reflect on where you’ve been and where you are now. This can help to clarify where you might want to go next. *Cue: treatment planning!*

Treatment Planning

After completing your assessment, we’ll turn to my personal favorite part of starting therapy: setting goals you’re excited about! We’ll make sure those goals are of the SMART variety (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) so we have a clear way to track your progress.

For each goal you have, I’ll offer suggestions about specific strategies and interventions we could use during therapy sessions to help you work towards that goal. I’ll invite you to share your feedback and we’ll workshop it together until your treatment plan feels just right. This is YOUR therapy — we’ll tailor it to your needs and preferences.

Therapy is an investment of your time, money, and emotional energy. Having a treatment plan (aka your roadmap for therapy) keeps us accountable in our work together and makes sure that we’re moving forward during and between sessions.

Still have questions about what to expect when starting therapy?

Let me know! Reach out for a virtual consultation, bring your questions to our first session, or message me directly in our client portal. I’m happy to answer any additional questions you have about starting therapy.