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 anxiety, depression, trauma, and more, in individual, couples and group therapy. You are making an investment in yourself to have improved mental health, well-being and balance. 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 Use our Self Help Resources. Read through the variety of resources we have available. On this website, look at our “resources” tab for other blog posts and self-help resources, such as book and meditation recommendations. In addition, we regularly post wellness tips, quotes and videos on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

2. 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 what aspects were most helpful, and what were not. Sharing these answers with your therapist will help you both co-create a collaborative environment in which you can achieve your goals.

3. Monitor your Symptoms. Review and record when you started to notice symptoms or changes in your mood, energy, relationships, sleep or eating habits. Continue to track these changes and be curious about patterns emerging from these changes. Be your own non-judgmental investigator. For example, did you begin experiencing symptoms of depression and low mood when you began working at home during COVID? Do you find you have more anxiety symptoms in the evenings? Tracking symptoms can be done on a calendar, journal, notes app on your phone, or in an app (e.g. Mood Tracker or Moodily).

4.Take action. If you want a different outcome in your life, you need to practice different habits. When you review the past, what activities, people or places were you involved in when you were feeling your best? How many of those things are you doing now? How can you introduce them back into your life? For example, if you regularly exercised in the past, but are not exercising now, identify a small goal related to this. You may begin by parking further away from the entrance of the grocery store; taking a 5 minute walk on your lunch break, playing with your kids for 5 more minutes, etc. Create a list and choose one thing you can do today. Practice acting as if you are already feeling like your best self again, and you’ll meet them again faster than you think.

5. Prioritize Self Care. Improving your mental health is a process. It takes daily intention and practice to cultivate a life of balance, self understanding and growth. Some common, helpful self care activities include: journaling, reading or listening to a self help book, practicing deep breathing, being in nature, prayer, meditation, sleeping for 7+ hours, stretching, exercise (yoga, walking), reading, volunteering, caring for an animal, and spending time with people you like. Schedule several activities into your calendar in advance, and make doing them a priority. You are worth investing in yourself!

6. Practice Gratitude. Research shows there are a variety of physical and emotional benefits from consistently practicing and fostering gratitude. Many find they have reduced stress, improved self esteem and happiness. You can write a daily gratitude list or thank you letters. You can also journal using some of these prompts: An experience I am lucky I had… A favorite memory in my life is… A valuable lesson I learned was… A time someone was kind to me was…. The most important thing is to create a habit out of this practice, or an attitude of gratitude.

7. Contact a Crisis Line. 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 Sucide hotline at 1-800-273-8255, calling the Alachua County Crisis Center at 352-264-6789 or texting a crisis text line (text HOME to 741741).

*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.

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

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