I just had my first session with a new therapist.
This doesn’t mean I’m replacing my beloved current therapist, it’s just another potential option. My therapist is The Best. She’s incredibly perceptive and her style is very complementary to my way of processing. If I could see her on the regular I would. But I can’t. Or rather, I could but it would cost me a lot. She’s not cheap. So while my benefits can currently afford 3 of her sessions per year (which frankly isn’t enough to deal with a lot of things), I don’t want to not have those sessions. I do want to jump further into therapy as a means of finding ways to cope with unhelpful thoughts and patterns. I got a call a few weeks back saying that I’d finally come off the waiting list for an OHIP sponsored therapist. Today was the first of potentially a few sessions.
Introduction sessions with therapists feel kind of weird. There’s protocol and bookkeeping that needs to happen. They’ll tell you of the boundaries in place. Confidentiality is assured, except in a few key circumstances. Primarily this revolves around you being a potential threat to yourself or others. If you have suicidal thoughts that your therapist deems sufficient as a precursor to taking action, they can notify authorities and have you escorted to emergency to gauge whether you’re at risk. If children under your care are potentially at risk, therapists can also alert authorities. If you’re unsafe to drive in any capacity, whether that’s admitting to a habit of drink or drugged driving, being off certain necessary medications (like epilepsy medication. Which is fine to come off, but in that case you should not be driving), etc. If you could harm yourself or others, that is a valid concern. With that out of a way, the session turns over to you.
A therapist is only as good as what they can divine from what they’ve heard. The more they know about you, the wealth of information they can utilise to find ways to help. So they ask questions. It’s kind of like a first date, but a shitty one-sided first date where you’re monopolising the conversation. They keep asking questions, but you don’t get to interject. They’re also jotting down all of your answers too. It’s sort of checklist-y, but with good reason. It’s the most efficient method to get a base of understanding. An intro often happens over a couple of sessions where the therapist will dive into your background and mood.
Today was background. She asked about my upbringing, family structure past and present. She asked about relationships. Was I in one? For how long? At which stage? That kinda thing. She asked about my history of education and employment. What had I done to get to where I was? History of therapy and treating mental illness? Personal struggles? Drinking and drug use? How often? In what quantities? Did I have close friendships and a support network? Was I physically healthy? How did I think cognitive behavioural therapy would work for me? What were my expectations of our sessions?
You’d be surprised how long it can all take. There’s a little probing here and there, perhaps clarifying or asking for further information on something you’ve said. Going back to the first date notion, what the introductory sessions are used for is to see if the relationship of care would be a synergistic fit. Some people’s issues and personality don’t mesh well with particular methods of therapy. You want to find someone whose style complements your own. It’s the most effective way of ensuring the sessions are time spent wisely. If something doesn’t feel quite right, chances are it’s not. Intuition works pretty well with this sort of stuff. If you’re actively looking for therapy, please shop around and find someone who’ll be able to tailor their skills to your issues. Therapy is amazing. It can be life changing when it works. That said, “work” is the important word. It’s a lot on both sides, but it’s so goddamn worth it.
Let’s see how “date two” goes…