Terri K. Lankford, LPCS
Session Two and Beyond
In our first blog post of this series, we talked about the starting point of your therapy journey - which begins before you actually make it into the office (or virtual office). For most folx, this looks like recognizing you’d like to see a therapist, finding a therapist, having a consultation call, and completing your intake paperwork. In our most recent blog post, we talked about what your first session may look like. For many people, it looks like …
Some “housekeeping”, like practice policies. This includes things like communication between sessions, fees, how to schedule … all that fun stuff.
The confidentiality spiel. This is when your therapist tells you “what is said in here stays in here, unless …”
… you are making an active plan to hurt yourself or someone else.
… there has been elder abuse or child abuse and the perpetrator still has access to potential victims.
… a judge subpoenas the records.
The “tell me about yourself” portion. This includes a personal history, the evolution of your symptoms (if you’re having any!), and what brings you in today.
So, you’ve had your first session, and scheduled another one. So … what’s next?
If you’re wondering what therapy looks like after session one, don’t worry - the holistic counselors at Rise and Thrive are here to help! Here’s what session two and beyond may look and feel like for you:
Setting and Working Towards Goals
Chances are, you’ve already talked about goals with your therapist in session one. If you haven’t, you’ll certainly see it in session two. Goals are helpful for many reasons, such as …
Tracking your progress. Goals are ways we can document and tangibly see if we’re making progress in therapy. If we aren’t, it may be time to assess if the goals we set are accurate. If they aren’ accurate, we can change them. If they are accurate, it’s time to assess what’s not working.
Seeing what approaches work for you. Like we mentioned in the previous bullet point, goals are a way to see not only what targets are working for us, but what methods are. If our goal was to incorporate 3 new mindfulness techniques to reduce anxiety and we just aren’t vibing with that goal, maybe something like CBT thought-stopping is a better route. Similarly, if our goal is to incorporate joyful movement daily and you’ve been trying to CBT your way into feeling motivated, maybe a more somatic approach is what you’re looking for.
Visualizing how your values are shifting. Some people come to therapy sure that they’d like to be more productive, exercise more, stay on their strict diet, or make a relationship work. Accordingly, they set goals that reflect these desires. However, therapy has a secret superpower that we don’t expect: it makes us examine our values and challenges if they’re still serving us. We may find our value of productivity is actually something passed down to us by our parents, and we’d rather incorporate restfulness in our day. We may find out our intense desire for diet and exercise is perfectionism in action. We may find that we’ve been staying in our relationship because we’re hesitant when it comes to change, but that’s the only reason. Goals - and more aptly, the changing of our goals - are a good way to see how we ourselves have changed.
When setting goals, consider: if I woke up tomorrow and I had no problems, what are some actions I’d do? How would I feel? This may be a helpful way to think of what you want out of therapy.
Building Rapport With Your Clinician
“Rapport” is the word we use to describe the trust and respect between a therapist and a client. When you first meet your therapist, you’ll likely not spill every secret you’ve ever had to them. You also may be more hesitant to implement their suggestions - you may have a feeling of they don’t really know me, how could they know this would help?
Through each session, your level of rapport will change. Hopefully, it will increase as your clinician listens to you, validates you, shows empathy for you, and supports you in your goals. However, rapport can also decrease - if your therapist pushes their values on you, disregards your lived experience, or doesn’t show up for you (physically, like canceling sessions all the time, or mentally, like being distracted in session).
If you find you aren’t clicking with your therapist after a few sessions, you can do a few things:
Have an honest conversation. One way you’ll know if it’s worth continuing a relationship with your therapist is by their reaction to a comment like “I don’t feel like we’re really connecting like I hoped. What’s your thought on this?”. Defensiveness isn’t a good sign. Them asking how they can better support you is a better sign.
Define what you want in the therapist-client relationship. Your therapist may not even realize they aren’t supporting you in the way you’re looking for. Setting clear expectations can be helpful, such as:
I’d like to just vent for a while, and then we can do some skill-building stuff at the end, if that’s okay.
I feel like I’ve spoken a lot on this, but I’m not sure of what tools I can use here. Can you provide some suggestions on this?
I’d really just like to feel heard, and stopping to ask me to do a breathing exercise feels disruptive of my process. I’d like to just get everything on the table at this point.
Talking. Lots of It.
Therapists and clients alike are waiting for the day healing can be done in complete silence. Today, though, we don’t have that option! Therapy only works when you, the client, can be open, honest, and vocal about your experience.
There are no gold stars in therapy. Holding back your thoughts and feelings makes it harder for your therapist to offer solid suggestions for you. Additionally, therapy at its core is a collaborative process - meaning its success depends on the contributions of both you and your therapist. While you can take as long as you need to feel comfortable and you have total control over when you choose to disclose information, know that your goals are more effectively met when you’re doing the majority of the talking.
We hope the third part of this series on trying therapy for the first time helps you visualize what the process looks like the first time you step in the door! If you want to try it yourself, we’d be happy to help you along the way. At Rise and Thrive, getting started with us is easy. Reach out today to see if we’d be a fit! We look forward to hearing from you.