Therapy with Charlene
If I have never been to therapy before, what should I expect? How do I know if I should go, and how do I start?
I consider the first session to be sort of “getting to know you” session - so we can either delve right into why you’re thinking about therapy, or we can just talk about who you are, what your typical day is like, etc.
One useful indicator about whether you should go to therapy is when you’re finding that the coping skills you had been using aren’t working as well as they used to. Another indicator is if you are feeling stuck.
If you’re on the fence about going, I would ask you to consider what it is that may be holding you back. Do you have specific concerns, trepidations, fears? Those things can also be things you’d want to talk about with your therapist. I very much believe that the connection you have with your therapist is critical, and so if you do make it to your first session and it doesn’t feel like a good match, it’s okay to find someone else.
2. Do any values or philosophies inform your work?
I trained in psychoanalytic/psychodynamic techniques, which look at a person as a whole. There may be patterns that occur in your life that you do not even realize are happening, or you do realize it but it’s unclear what the reasons are behind them. This philosophy also looks at your experiences while growing up, whether it is with your family, friends or partners.
3. What are a few examples of what it would be like to work with you?
In our work together, we will explore the thoughts and feelings behind struggles that you have in your life and in your relationships. By listening carefully and asking exploratory questions, I try to help clients better understand the dynamic processes behind their experiences in life so that together we can come up with plans and ways to more confidently approach and handle life’s obstacles.
To follow is an example of how a client and I may work together in a session:
"I had such a bad day and I was starting to get a migraine when my boyfriend started playing music really loudly. I was pissed!"
“What came up for you when you were feeling pissed? What did it make you feel about your boyfriend?”
“I felt like he was completely inconsiderate and never cares about what I’m doing or what my needs are. He’s so selfish!”
“It sounds as though you’re feeling like he wasn’t thinking of you. What’s that like for you?”
“It hurts, it reminds me of the other times when it didn’t feel like he was thinking about me. I don’t think he gets it.”
“Maybe we can come up with some ways that we can talk to him about how this is making you feel.”
4. How participatory are you during sessions?
I place an emphasis on a dialogue, and I want you to sort of lead the session, but I do ask questions to clarify or to delve deeper into a particular topic.
5. Do you ever share about yourself with during therapy sessions? Why or why not?
I tend to not share specific details about myself because I think it’s important for us to really focus on you and what’s going on for you. I think sometimes if you don’t know specific details about me or my life, the thoughts or beliefs that come up between us can help us understand a bit more about other aspects of your life and your relationships with others.
6. How can you tell if I am feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard?
Maybe you’ll fidget during session, maybe you’ll feel the desire to not come in to sessions, or maybe you’ll tell me you’re feeling this way. I work with patients on putting feelings into words, and if these are some of the feelings you have, we can explore them together. I encourage all my patients to have an open dialogue, even if it means they’re telling me something they’re worried I won’t want to hear.
7. Is there ever a time when you would encourage me to leave or graduate therapy? How might I know when it’s time to end or move on, or time to stay and explore more?
Probably the most obvious gauge is if you’re finding that the things you came in with don’t really seem to be much of a problem anymore. Granted, some new things may pop up that we’ll address. But if it seems as though you’ve developed healthier coping skills that you’re able to apply, or if you simply don’t experience any more of those negative symptoms, then maybe it is time to move on. And if we do decide to end our time together, we would explore the feelings associated with endings and transitions that may come up. And you’ll also know that if you do leave, it doesn’t mean you can’t come back if something else arises.
8. How will our relationship be different than relationships I have with friends/loved ones?
I may have mentioned this before, but our relationship would be different because even though you may share details about your life with your friends/loved ones, those details are confidential between you and me (with the exception of a couple of very specific circumstances). Our relationship will hopefully lead you to feel that you can be open and be your authentic, genuine self while being in a place where you won’t be judged.
9. Do you assign homework, activities, or readings to do between sessions? Why or why not?
I wouldn’t say that I set homework on a weekly basis. But depending on what may come up in the session, it may be relevant to assign a “task” or something to be on the lookout for during the week so that you can bring what you find into the next session.
10. Where did you work before going into private practice?
I have worked in few different settings including a college, a hospital, and a psychoanalytic institute. I also worked at Bleuler Psychotherapy Center where I had the opportunity to work with children ranging from 6 years old to adults up to 85 years old. I worked with patients dealing with a wide range of issues, and I have worked with individuals, couples, and families.
11. What is unique about the work you do, or how have you found your work to be different than your colleagues’?
I believe there is a way in which I communicate active listening that really resonates with the people I work with in session. I've been told that has had a profound effect on them.
12. How do you approach diversity in the room or working with clients who may come from a different background than you?
We are all different from one another, even if there are similarities. It is important to me that the space in our room allows for diversity. I want to learn about you and if there are things about your background that I don’t know about, whether they are different or similar to my own, it’s important that I hear your own description of your experiences.
13. How should I prepare for my first session with you?
I would ask you to think about what may be troubling you at this point in time, to think about why you’re wanting to be in therapy and what you hope to get out of it.