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What are Initial Meetings and what can I expect from them?

Updated: Oct 1, 2022

There are times in life that can feel challenging and in those instances, talking to a therapist can feel like the right thing to do. Once you feel that talking therapy is something that you want to do, you then need to find the right therapist for you and your needs. This step can often feel overwhelming both practically and emotionally.


This article, will focus on some of the practicalities of finding a therapist.


Firstly, try going onto an accrediting website like the UKCP (in the UK), insert your postcode (making therapy convenient will facilitate a good outcome), select a few psychotherapists that you feel could be right for you. Reasons will vary, but factors such as geographic location (if you are wanting face to face therapy), approach, or gender may play a part.


Before any therapy can start, there should be an initial meeting between you and the therapist. This first consultation for you, is an opportunity for you to meet the therapist and see if you can work together. For the therapist it is a way to determine if they are the best person to support you. This first meeting is non-committal.


Before the first meeting takes place, most therapists will send you some questions. This is a way for the therapist to get a sense of you, your support network, why you are seeking therapy and what your expectations may be. For you, these questions can help ascertain why you are seeking therapy, why now and what your expectations may be.


I thought it would be helpful to outline some of the questions and thoughts you might want to keep in mind during your initial meeting. I will firstly be doing this from the therapists perspective hoping to give their considerations context and then from the clients (you).


Remember…


Starting therapy, getting in touch with a therapist and asking for support is often a really hard thing to do. Acknowledging this first achievement is important.


Here are some of the questions the therapist will be asking themselves:


1. Am I the best person to support this client? This might for example be because of the nature of the presenting issue. If for example, the client presents with wanting to talk about a divorce, and the therapist is currently going through a divorce it might not be the best time for the therapist to see that client. A non-judgmental space is key withing the therapeutic relationship and if the therapist is going through a similar issue it might be hard to keep judgements at bay.

2. Are schedules compatible. If they are not, it’s a non-starter.

3. The therapist will question if they can keep the client safe and the work confidential. It is always the therapists duty to keep information confidential and the client safe. So for example if the therapist realises that they know the client (even if through somebody else), they will probably feel that the relationship should not go forward as it might jeopardize confidentiality and safety.

4. They want to know that you are committed and that you will be able to make the payments.

5. If you decide to meet face to face, your specific needs will be considered. For example if you need wheelchair access and the therapist cannot provide this they will not be able to take you on.

6. Therapists are aware that not everyone is the right fit for them. It is within the therapists right to feel that the client is not suitable for them. This might be because they do not feel like they have the necessary expertise, they feel like somebody they know could be of better support, etc… If the therapist feels that they are not the best person to support you then they should be in a position to refer you on to someone else who might be more appropriate.

7. What are your expectations? Have you had therapy in the past? What has your experience been? What worked and what didn’t? This is something that the therapist will ask you and want to know as it offers an insight into what you respond to.

8. A risk assessment will be made. Are you a danger to yourself or others? If you are, then it needs to be known so that the appropriate safeguarding measures can be put in place.



Here are some points I would suggest you consider when meeting a therapist for the first time:


1. Do you like them? Do you have a good connection with them? For the therapeutic process to be successful, you need to like/feel comfortable with the person sitting in front of you. If you don’t feel like you can talk to the person in front of you, it is unlikely that you will have a good experience.

2. Discuss availability. Therapy is normally once a week, same day and time. This constant is significant to the framework of the therapy, so think of a time that you are going to be able to commit to long term.

3. Discuss the cost of the therapy. Psychotherapy is not regulated and prices can vary a lot. Ask what they charge and see if it is something that is affordable to you (if the initial price given feels unaffordable but you like the therapist, please talk to them as they might be able to offer an alternative arrangement).

4. You can ask about orientation, how they work. Each therapist will work slightly differently. It is important that you feel aligned with the therapist.

5. Would you rather meet face to face, online or a combination of both? Think about this, the initial meeting is the time to discuss your preference.

6. Consider sex, age and cultural background. Often for reasons that we find hard to explain we have an immediate draw to some people over others. With a therapist it is no different. Remember, what matters is that you feel comfortable. So, if you feel that working with a middle aged male is going to help you feel more at ease, then that is what you should look for. In the therapy you can then think why that might be.



7. After the initial meeting, I always suggest a bit of thinking time. Take a moment to consider if you felt that the person you met with will work for you. If the answer is yes, then go ahead and start the process.




Order of events from first contact with a therapist to starting the therapy:


Contact – initial meeting – think – choose – contract signed – therapy begins.






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