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Commonly Asked Questions: Starting Individual Therapy

Individual therapy, counseling services Philadelphia,
  1. What should I expect during my first therapy session?

Most individual therapy intake sessions consist of a lot of information gathering. This is the therapists' opportunity to get to know you and why you chose to start therapy now. This is also an opportune time for you to get to know the therapist. It could be helpful to have questions prepared like, 'what's your experience in working with trauma?' or, 'how long until I start to notice change?'. The first session might also dive into your history (relationships, trauma, family dynamics, drug/alcohol use or other addictions, and history of your presenting problem). Most first sessions should also lay a roadmap out of how therapy will look for the next few months in terms of frequency of sessions, treatment planning and goals for future sessions.

2. How long does therapy typically last?

This depends on your reason for starting individual therapy and how intense you presenting problem is. This also depends on your budget and willingness to participate in your sessions. I have noticed that clients who withhold or falsify information, tend to take longer to notice change than clients who are more open and honest.

The length of therapy also depends on the therapists' style and approach. Some styles are meant to be brief and resolve some issues quickly. Other styles require developing more trust and rapport with the client thus, taking more time. Again, this can depend on the presenting problem such that, someone who wants to process intense trauma will be expected to spend more time in therapy than someone who is hoping to find guidance navigating a new job.

3. How often should I attend therapy sessions?

I'd say a good rule of thumb is, the more consistent time and effort you put into therapy, the better the results. I recommend weekly sessions if this fits into your schedule and budget, especially in the beginning. Then, I think it can be appropriate to move to a bi-weekly or even monthly schedule.

4. Will my therapy sessions be confidential?

Absolutely! By law, licensed therapists are required to keep your information confidential. The only exception is if the client's records are court ordered or if the client intends to inflict harm on themselves or others. Some clinicians are seeking supervision and will also want to use case studies to enhance their education however, this must be discussed with and agreed to by the client before doing so. It is also common for health care providers to collaborate for integrative care of the client and may discuss some confidential material however again, this must be approved with the client first. Please ask your therapist about confidentiality during your first session.

5. What types of issues can therapy help me with?

All types! This depends on the therapist and their areas of expertise. Some therapists specialize in working with adolescents while others specialize in couples counseling. Some may specialize in trauma while others work best with life transitions. It's helpful to explore a few therapists' bios and websites to learn more about their specialties.

6. How do I know if therapy is right for me?

You won't know until you give it a try. And a fair try! Once you've been in therapy for a month or so, notice if you feel any different- lighter, clearer, more insightful into your inner workings and/or more confident in your communication. It is recommended that you ask your therapist if they have any specific scales or forms to track therapeutic progress.

7. What if I don't feel comfortable with my therapist?

My first suggestion would be to explore why. First, with yourself and then, with your therapist, if necessary. If your therapist is unprofessional or disrespectful in any way and you feel unsafe, I would terminate sessions immediately. If you feel slight discomfort, I would open this up for discussion with your therapist as this could be transference and an opportunity for you to explore this discomfort in other areas of your life as well.

8. Can I bring up specific goals or concerns during therapy?

Please do! The more you participate in your therapy process, the better the results. You are the expert of your own life. A therapist is a guide. Please don't hesitate to make therapy work for you.

9. Is therapy covered by insurance?

Some therapy is covered by insurance. Again, this depends on your insurance and your therapist. Check with your insurance for a list of in-network providers and choose from there. Or, if you already have a therapist in mind, ask your therapist if/what insurance they take and/or if they provide Superbills for possible reimbursement.

10. How can I find a therapist that is right for me?

The first place I'd start is knowing what you want out of therapy. Are you looking for something quick and powerful or slow and thorough? Are you looking for relief from childhood traumas or current relationship dissatisfaction? Once you've narrowed down your own goals and intentions, then start searching for a therapist that fits those criteria. Therapy sites like 'Psychology Today', 'Theravive', and 'GoodTherapy' are all good places to start. Also, don't be afraid to shop around for the 'right fit'. If you're not feeling it with a therapist and you feel that you've put enough effort into the relationship and your treatment, it's absolutely ok to try a new therapist. It's also helpful to ask friends or trusted people in your life if they have any recommendations.


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