Ways to Prepare for your First Counseling Session

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’ve taken the courageous step of scheduling a therapy session at Sage Wellness in Gainesville, Florida! We help people just like you resolve symptoms of stress, anxiety, low mood, depression, trauma, and more, in individual, couples and group therapy. You are making an investment in yourself to feel more confident, healthy and balanced. While you are waiting to attend your first appointment, we want you to know you are a valued member of the Sage Wellness community. Here are some ways to help you prepare for your first session:

1. Set Goals for Counseling. Why are you seeking therapy and what do you want to achieve from the experience? What would you like to be different and better in your life by the conclusion of treatment? Answer The Miracle Question to help you get started: “Suppose tonight, while you were asleep, a miracle occurred. When you wake up the next morning, what would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you life had suddenly gotten better?”

In addition, if you’ve attended therapy before, consider which aspects were most helpful, and which were not. Sharing these answers with your therapist will help you both co-create a collaborative environment in which you can achieve your goals.

2. Monitor your Symptoms. Review and record when you started to notice symptoms or changes in your mood, energy, relationships, work, sleep or eating habits. Track these changes and be curious about patterns emerging from these changes. Be your own non-judgmental investigator. For example, did you begin having trouble getting out of bed? Feeling misunderstood or lonely in your relationships? Do your heart and mind races when you’re laying in bed trying to fall asleep? Tracking symptoms can be done on a calendar, journal, notes app on your phone, or in an app (e.g. Mood Tracker or Moodily).

3. What to expect. You can make yourself comfortable in the waiting room and help yourself to one of the many beverages available. You are encouraged to arrive as early as you’d like to relax and feel more settled before your appointment time. Your therapist will meet you in the waiting room at your session time, and take you to a private, confidential counseling room. The purpose of the first session is to give your therapist a foundation picture of your life currently and in the past. During your 45 minute session, the therapist will be asking a lot of questions to get to know you. Together, you will discuss in detail what concerns you are experiencing and the goals of what you’d like to accomplish to create more fulfillment in your life. Your therapist will ask you about a variety areas of your life, including your current and past physical and mental health, family, relationships, sleep, hobbies, etc. You are in complete control over how much and what you choose to disclose. At the conclusion of the session, your therapist will provide a treatment plan with some strategies they will utilize moving forward to help you experience tangible change and growth. The counselor will also review practice policies such as the cancellation policy and confidentiality, and check in about how comfortable and understood you felt by them in the session. We strive to give you an exceptional counseling experience and will schedule your next session at that time.

4. Course of treatment. Our clients experience the most relief and treatment progress when they commit to regularly attending counseling. We encourage clients to attend weekly, for the first couple of months of therapy. Afterwards, sessions are often spaced out to every two weeks or more weeks after you have noticed positive growth and are building your confidence in these changes. Learning new coping skills, ways of thinking, etc. take time to practice and implement, so consistent attendance in therapy will help you achieve your goals more quickly.

*If you are starting couple’s counseling:
1. Identify your personal goals AND your goals as a couple. This will involve personal reflection and discussion with your partner to help you both be on the same page about the direction you’re both wanting to move in.

2. The Gottman Institute also provides a great resource called Marriage Minute. This is an email newsletter you and your partner can subscribe to that sends biweekly relationship tips and tricks that are easy to read and implement without taking much time. https://www.gottman.com/marriage-minute/

We look forward to seeing you at your first session and feel honored you have trusted us to walk beside you on this journey towards increased healing, health and wellness!

Written by Amelia Hartman, LCSW and Jen Martin, PhD

If you are experiencing thoughts of wanting to harm yourself or others, reach out for support. These thoughts and feelings are temporary, but it’s more painful to endure them alone. Reach out to someone you trust, or contact a free crisis line where people are ready and wanting to support you through this. Call 911 if you are in imminent danger. Also available 24/7 are calling the Suicide hotline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255, calling the Alachua County Crisis Center at 352-264-6789, or texting a crisis text line (text HOME to 741741).

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