What to expect from your First Therapy session?Rashi Bhargava
I will start with a disclaimer. I am no expert on the subject. Sharing insights from my own life, as a finance professional who has dealt with 1000 plus clients in 18 years of professional journey and now undergoing psychotherapy.
Confession time! I met my therapist by God’s design and not because of my proactiveness. So, what I am sharing is from hindsight and my own experiences and learnings from my work with clients. I entered my first therapy session unprepared, had no clue about the credentials of my therapist.
Even thinking of seeking help and deciding to seek therapist is a big step and the hardest part. Therapy and financial advisory are push services; no one goes out and seek actively. We live in a country where mental health is still a big issue and financial advice is something which you get free via print/social media. What we don’t realize is that It is okay not to be okay. But it is not okay to not seek help. Accepting help is not a weakness, but strength.
Change is treatment for the soul, and therapists are doctors for change.
- Prepare for therapy the way you will prepare for your appointment with your Financial Adviser. Get to know more about your therapist. Exploring online reviews and google results will be a good way of knowing your therapist’s educational credentials, experience, domain expertise, skills.
- Write down your expectations from the therapy, the challenges/issues you are facing. Do your homework. There is a reason you are seeing a therapist. Setting expectations right at the start is good way of ensuring there is no mismatch of expectations and deliverables. Without preparations you may not know what exactly you need.Same is the case in my field. My job is easier when client is aware and comes prepared. Of course, I try to educate prospects through our initial communication. It saves lot of time and energy. Needless to say, there are less chances of mismatch between expectations and deliverables.
- Ask questions about the process. Often, we approach therapist and adviser expecting some magic. Adviser and therapist are to give guidance, directions, hand hold and manage your emotions, show you the mirror which you had been avoiding. As an adviser people don’t like it, but my job is to show them their real financial picture and get real. My job is not to predict returns from the financial products. In a way therapist job is similar, to show you the mirror you had been avoiding all this while, emotional weight that you had been carrying.
- Arrange a phone call with therapist before one on one meeting. Familiarize with your therapist and what to expect in terms of paperwork. You may be required to fill in an intake form, which requires you to share personal, family details, your occupation, health and medical history.
I like to roll out client intake form to all my prospective clients. It’s a downloadable fillable form. The responses help me in assessing prospects situation, formulate a blueprint and determine whether services offered fit well with the needs. Same way my therapist to know me better gave me an intake form to fill in post my first session.
- Be open and honest about your feelings, the outcome will depend on that. Therapists are wise. They listen with an attentive and well-trained ear. They help guide you through stressful situations at work, breakups, family drama. What you can expect is that the therapist will be impartial, help you wade through challenges, dealing with past trauma and smaller things, like figuring out how to improve your daily routine. As an adviser I expect my client’s to be honest with their financial picture. Good advice cannot be just based on symptoms. It depends on a clear picture of your financial situation and needs.
- Once you are in the therapist office, do not expect stereotypical couch/recliner glorified by movies. Therapist will ensure that you are comfortable before guiding you to the conversation about who you are and why you are seeking therapy. It is like Getting to know you session. Most of the time therapist will be calling the shots and asking you questions. So, don’t be nervous or guarded. Therapy tends to work best when you are open and honest. But even when you’re talking with a mental health professional, it’s normal to want to build up some trust and confidence before you bare all. It took me 9 sessions with my therapist to share my inner most emotional baggage. And I am still not out with all.
- Use this opportunity to know your therapist too. Ask questions about their experience, training, expertise with issues you are facing, their approach and process. Like my therapist focuses on skills, coping strategies I can use to manage my emotions, empower me with tools to take on life challenges, pushes me to reflect, dig deep and come up with my own solutions.
First visit will give you a feeler for what will resonate with you. Not every adviser/therapist will be a good fit so do clients. After 18 years in profession I am choosy and picky about clients. Try to get a sense of what it may feel like being in a room with therapist.
- Be assured anything that you share remains confidential unless required by law.
- The first session with adviser/therapist may leave you in discomfort or you may feel wide range of emotions. My first session with clients leaves them in deep thought when we get into number crunching, Income vs Expenses discussion. Money is a difficult topic to discuss.
- First session will give you a fair idea of what comes next. Don’t expect quick fix solutions to all your problems. Therapy is no Band-aid nor a pain pill which you swallow and see immediate results. Therapist/adviser will provide directions, guidance but the real effort has to come from you.
- Therapist offers solutions in the form of takeaways
- Expect summary of your discussions with your therapist and key areas to focus in last few minutes of your session. Therapist will offer some thoughts and proposed plan for working together, give an indication towards number of sessions and what need to be done in between the sessions. Like my therapist loves to give me assignments post every session 😊
Therapy can be painful, taxing, and exhausting, but it can also be a lifeline and life changing event, like in my case. And if you find the right therapist, they can become a hero in the story of your life. Investing in a good adviser/therapist is an investment towards self for a better future.