When new potential clients call our office, we are commonly asked about the “therapy process.” This is actually a big question, as it can be answered in many different ways. It is also largely dependent on the individual therapist who will be providing your treatment. If you called us and we directed you to our website to answer this question, you have arrived at the right page!
It is understandable to want to know about this, and to ask this question in order to feel comfortable scheduling an appointment and particularly to prepare for that first appointment. What many people are surprised to learn is that the answer is rather straight-forward (at least in as far as the general process – again, the approach your therapist takes to help you address your specific challenges will vary greatly).
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING THE FIRST CALL
When you to call to make the first appointment, it is common to ask questions regarding the length of each session, cost of each session (and potentially insurance options including in-network or out-of-network, and the process for out-of-network), appointment availability, hours of operation, and about the therapists that provide services at the practice.
Some questions are easier answered through reading materials (such as this article), so the scheduler may direct you to the website for questions that require longer answers but yet are commonly asked.
To book the first appointment at Tampa Therapy, we do so with payment completed over the phone for the first appointment. This reserves the appointment time for you. The amount paid also completes payment for the first session, and is not an additional fee. We strongly believe you should only pay for what you book.
At Tampa Therapy, our clients complete paperwork ahead of the appointment in the client portal. Paperwork is required to start services and will be reviewed at the first appointment.
No printing is required; everything is completed and submitted to us online. You will be sent a personalized link to the portal after scheduling the first appointment. Not only does this save some trees (a definite win!), but it benefits you as:
- You do not have to arrive early to complete paperwork
- You do not have to remember to bring paperwork with you
- The time during the first appointment can be spent on the reasons you are actually seeking therapy! Not filling out forms
- Your therapist will have an understanding of why you are seeking therapy even before they first meet with you, which will streamline the intake part of the therapy process and allow the therapist to ask questions more specific to you, your challenges, and your goals
THE FIRST APPOINTMENT
Trust us – it is not scary! Think of it this way – therapists, by nature and through experience, have a way of calming us. They tend to be down-to-earth, pragmatic, and soothing. At Tampa Therapy, we can genuinely say we have never had a client tell us that their first appointment was anything other than “easier than I thought” or “relaxing.”
Your therapist will start the session by going over key points from the informed consent – while this may seem unnecessary to some, it is an essential part of the therapy process that you can really call part of the due diligence process. This allows you to have an understanding of what therapy is, and what it is not, as well as the limitations of therapy, your rights, etc. Not only does this part answer common questions about the process, it can also be a great opportunity to simply sit, listen (and possibly ask questions) while you get acquainted with the therapist, the therapy room, and can begin to relax.
After reviewing the informed consent, the general goal of the next phase is for the therapist to get an understanding of what brings you in for therapy. This looks different in practice based on the therapist, and (no surprise here), based on you! The therapist wants to understand your challenges, struggles, history, past therapy (if any), and develop a plan with you on how to treat the problem areas you are presenting for.
Sometimes the assessment/intake process takes more than one session, and this is completely normal and realistic. After all, your difficulties didn’t start overnight, so it can take some time for the therapist to get an understanding of what you are experiencing, how you got here, what you have or have not tried, and what will likely work best to help you. Therapy takes time; it is a process, after all.
Therapy that is rushed is likely to not be as effective. This is because things may be missed, skipped over, or not adequately addressed.
Treatment at Tampa Therapy is highly personalized – we don’t believe in a one-size fits all approach, and that is because how you got where you are today is different from the person coming in for an appointment after you. The actual approach your therapist will take varies greatly based on YOU and their therapy style, but the therapist will provide you with recommendations based on what they assess will benefit you the most.
THE REAL CHANGE HAPPENS
After the initial appointment or first few, the actual work of therapy really begins. This is where the therapist is working with you to address the difficulties that you presented for. Again, this looks different for every client and between different therapists.
It is important to keep in mind that regardless of the approach taken, your therapist cannot do the work for you. You are the one responsible for coming to sessions open and ready to “work,” and even more so, for taking what is done in therapy and implementing those strategies and practices in your everyday life – when your therapist is not there! The therapist is there to guide you, teach you, motivate you, and point you in the direction of growth, healing, and change.
The therapist and therapy session is the like the stove (or any other cooking appliance) in your kitchen – it will provide the basis for you to cook a meal, but it cannot initiate cooking a meal or cook a meal correctly without your direct, active involvement and direction. But without the stove, cooking the meal would a lot harder, more complicated, and time-consuming.
Weekly Appointments: Why They Matter!
As mental health professionals, we fully understand how therapy works, and it is part of our job to educate prospective clients and clients. This largely includes having conversations about the consistency and frequency that you attend therapy appointments. We are writing this blog as we also fully understand that many prospective and new clients who come to our office, and therapy in general, are not familiar with how therapy really works. They are especially not familiar with the commitment that is required if you really want to reach your goals and get even the smallest outcome from the process.
When clients do not understand how this process that we call therapy works, this means sometimes people set out the with the plan that they will come to therapy appointments once per month. And we are talking about startingout coming once per month.
We hate to break it to ya, but that’s just ineffective therapy. And this is supported by countless research studies and decades of clinical outcome reviews.
Therapy is a marathon; not a sprint.
A RELATED EXAMPLE
The easiest comparison we can make is to that of weight loss. You simply do not lose weight by eating healthy and exercising one day per month, or even one day per week. You need to be consistent with how often you engage in the necessary behaviors to reach the goals you have. With therapy, it is largely the same except compared to weight loss, in most cases you only need one appointment a week (not five days a week!).
WEEKLY APPOINTMENTS ARE A MUST IN THE BEGINNING OF THERAPY
At no point in the process of therapy is this more important than the very beginning when introductions are being made, rapport is being built between you and your therapist, goals are being established, skills are being developed, and momentum and progress towards those goals are being realized.
IT’S ALL ABOUT OUTCOMES
We certainly agree that only needing to attend appointments on a monthly basis would be ideal, but it’s simply not practical. At Tampa Therapy in particular, we pride ourselves on providing the very best outcomes, and helping you to make the most of the time you spend in therapy and the money you spend on therapy. We would be doing you a disservice by only seeing you once per month or less, and we simply stand by providing the highest quality of care possible.
Any therapist who does care about the outcomes you get from therapy will also follow these guidelines (again, especially at the beginning of therapy), whether you are being seen for free or paying a few hundred dollars per session. Outcomes are related to consistency and frequency, not occasional appointment visits.
See you Soon
If you have booked your first appointment with us, we look forward to meeting and working with you! If you haven’t booked the first appointment and are ready to get started, give us a call – 813-474-9395.