When a client contacts me, I like to explain a bit about the intake process so they know what to expect, especially if they have never been to therapy before. It is a bit different than in-person therapy, but not much! You can also check out my blogs about online therapy and the pros and cons of online therapy.
Before the first appointment
This first contact is to see if we both think it will be a good fit – personality, diagnosis, type of therapy, and with logistics (fees, scheduling).
I might ask some questions like these:
- Why did you decide to come to therapy? Why now?
- What are you looking for in a therapist?
- What change are you looking for in your life?
- If you have been to therapy before, what worked and what didn’t?
- Are you taking any medications?
- Are you seeing other providers (therapists, dieticians,doctors, etc.)?
- When are you able to meet?
- What concerns do you have?
- Will you be using insurance or self pay?
- Do you have a safe, private place with a reliable internet connection?
Clients also sometimes have questions for me; most often, this is about logistics and what kind of therapist I am. If you are reading this, you have probably looked at other parts of my website so you might already know these. If not, check out my about page or some of the other blogs. The shortest answer, though, is that I am all about being authentic, straightforward and goal oriented, and will never ask you “how does that make you feel?” in all the time we work together – except maybe as a joke.
I am a virtual only therapist, so all of our sessions will be through the portal. I also don’t take all insurance plans, though I do provide Superbills so you can submit those claims using your out-of-network benefits on request.
Through PATH Mental Health I take Aetna, Cigna, Anthem, and Optum. I also see a few clients through Open Path and with Project HEAL to help clients access care when they need a sliding scale, though there are a limited number of those spots.
To schedule an appointment…
I need a client’s email, birthdate, full name, and phone number. I will send the link to my therapy portal (a HIPAA compliant program called Therapy Notes) with the initial paperwork to fill out through the portal. The paperwork includes demographic and emergency contact information, payment, policies, HIPAA, ROI’s for any other providers or people I might need to talk to about your care, etc.
At the intake…
This is where we would talk through your history, your concerns and goals, and the treatment plan. This first appointment is much more about answering questions, not much conversation or discussion, generally, though I like to give as much info as I can. This session lasts 60-90 minutes.
In the beginning I always ask clients if they have questions about the paperwork or the process so far and explain confidentiality. This could be about the paperwork, but it can also be about what to do if we see each other in the grocery store. FYI, when I see clients out and about, I always leave it up to them if they want to say hello. And even when they do come talk to me, I will not introduce them to people I might be with (since that would be a breach of confidentiality).
At the end, I make sure to ask the client what their goals are . I also ask if there is anything else it would be helpful for me to know about them and if they have any questions about me.
If everything seems copacetic, we would schedule your appointments out for a month or so to get us started.
The next few sessions
Regular individual therapy sessions are usually 45-50 minutes. Sometimes, there are still things we need to go over related to the intake. Sometimes we are still getting to know each other. The goal of the first four sessions (or so) is for you to decide if you can trust me and if this will be a good fit for you. Rapport between client and therapist is the single biggest predictor of positive outcomes in therapy, and it is SO important!
These first few sessions are usually not the underlying (and maybe dark) work – we will not dive right into the deep end at the first session! I will want to make sure that you have appropriate coping skills, a support system, and a clear idea of the goals you are working towards so I can help you get there. We will get there, but I like to tell people to ‘start as you mean to go on.’ In this case, it means making therapy work for you (even if it is not always fun). If it is ever not working, the best thing you can do is tell me so we can shift or pivot (but not dance around) what needs to get discussed and managed.
I hope this answers your questions about the intake process. The first step is always the hardest!