I made this video around March of this year when the pandemic was starting to rear its ugly head in the U.S. It provides information about a few triggers that we may experience at this time as well as ideas on what to do when that happens. I hope you find this information useful.
You may be wondering why someone would bother breaking down each process of looking for a therapist; after all, isn’t it pretty straightforward?
Before I entered the mental health field, I was unfamiliar with the logistics of finding a therapist. I didn’t even know where to start. The only piece of knowledge I had was that as long as I was a student at a university, a few sessions would be free.
My first experience in therapy wasn’t so great. First, I was assigned a therapist, then a few sessions in, I realized that my therapist didn’t see me as a whole person and would not recognize my cultural and familial context despite my bringing it up. I was further confounded by her lack of follow up about the tasks she assigned to me. I found myself to be generally frustrated and anxious about upcoming sessions. I eventually stopped going and didn’t again engage in therapy until approximately a decade later.
Since my first foray into the role of a therapy client, I have come to realize that many people of color, immigrants, refugees, and individuals who have been disenfranchised in their respective communities have had similar – and generally worse – experiences. Young folx, immigrants and refugees of color may not even know how to go about looking for a therapist if they so desire, and when they do show up, they may be gaslighted or their experiences diminished by the use of therapeutic theories and modalities inappropriate to their experiences.
To destigmatize therapy and to make it more accessible, we need to first shed light on exactly what it is and how it looks. We need to make client rights available so that people can make choices appropriate to themselves even before they enter a therapist’s office.
What are other ways we can make therapy accessible and destigmatize it?
We have established by now that all therapists are not the same, so it only makes sense that your first session (or your first couple of sessions) will differ based on who you end up working with.
Some therapists use the first few sessions to go over their policies and documents indicating agreement with their policies. These policies generally focus on confidentiality, limits to confidentiality, disclosure of the therapist’s background, agreement to payment, policies around scheduling and canceling appointments, and the process of ending therapeutic relationship. If you are doing tele-therapy, policies on online counseling will also be included.
Your therapist may choose to have a structured or a semi-structured interview with you in order to get a better idea of who you are, why you are seeking therapy, what goals for therapy you have, information on your psychical and mental health, etc. They may work on a treatment plan collaboratively with you that you sign as an agreement of the objectives and goals you have for your work together – this is especially true if your insurance will cover your therapy sessions.
Or, your therapist may ask you to sign all the policy-related documents beforehand and welcome questions about them during your first session. They may also provide an intake document – essentially a questionnaire about the topics listed on the third paragraph – that they ask you to send over as soon as you can so that they can review the information before your first meeting. This way, you are free to start the session with any subject, concern, issue, questions you have that day.
It is important for you to know and understand exactly what you are signing. If you are unclear on anything, ask for clarification. You have the right to have a signed copy of all the documents you sign (if you so choose). You have the right to documents pertaining to you as well as to know your diagnosis if there is one.