Therapy with Samantha
From your perspective, what is therapy?
Therapy has always been such an interesting word to me, and I think that it is so individualized that it is almost hard to explain exactly what therapy is.
I would consider therapy a non-biased, non-judgemental zone to kind of just get it all out and say whatever you want, however you want, without feeling any certain way about being judged. It’s a space where you can let your mind speak, where you can let your guard down, and a place that you come to grow and learn so much about yourself and your environment.
It has always been an amazing thing that someone can come to therapy and learn so many important parts of who they are and how they interact with the world around them.
Please share 2-3 anonymized examples of how the work can play out and/or look in the room so that I can form a visual or narrative of what to expect.
Throughout therapy, you can never exactly tell how someone is going to come in each day. There is definitely no formula for “how does a first session go?”
Typically, I like to gather all relevant background information in the first session and talk about presenting problems and goals. Goals are an extremely important part of first sessions for me, as they will be used to measure progress, and figure out what techniques are working, and what needs to be tweaked.
Some people come in and just need to vent, so they take about 25 minutes to just get everything they are feeling out, and then I help them formulate and prioritize what the problem is and create solutions they would like to see.
Other sessions, after talking about problems and goals, may be role playing out situations, such as a breakup. It may sound silly, but actually talking out situations helps the person become more comfortable with using the language and going through with their plan of action. A session may be just working through appropriate language and practicing body language for someone who may not be familiar with taking a more direct approach.
Sessions will look at specific concerns the client has, break them down, and help figure out what the best approach to proceeding is. It is definitely an interactive process.
How much do you share about yourself during our time together and why?
I like to say that the amount that I share about myself really varies depending on the client, and it is completely individualized. I have had clients who have confronted me that I remind them of someone and we will talk about the ways that I am different from that person.
I often ask the client if it makes a difference or if it is important to know the question they are asking me, and if it truly is important for them to know, I will answer. (Of course, if the question is appropriate.)
I think it is important that clients know that you are human too, and ignoring all personal questions just feels off for me.
How participatory are you during sessions?
I often play an active role in sessions. Most people become more comfortable in the session when I asked questions and interact in discussions with them. I do like to make sure the client stays on topic and focuses on what their intended goal is for the session as well, so I will sometimes redirect the conversation back to the topic.
Do you assign homework, activities, or readings for me to do between sessions? Why or why not?
Depending on what you are working on, I may ask you to do “homework.” “Homework” consists of tracking triggers, feelings, behaviors, thoughts, etc. It will never be anything that you will feel pressured or stressed about doing, and we will always set an extremely clear outline of why I am giving this as an assignment.
Sometimes I ask clients to read articles at their leisure if I think it may be helpful for the work they are doing and their goals.
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?
Therapy is a space where you can talk things out without feeling like you said too much or that you are going to be judged by the person you told. It is such a unique place where you can “vent” about anything you want and have someone really map out what is going on and come up with ways to help you be the best version of yourself.
If you are even thinking about therapy, why not just try it out? You might love it, or end up hating it, but it can’t hurt to try it out!
How will our relationship be different than relationships I have with friends/loved ones?
There are really strict boundaries within a therapeutic relationship. Although this is a space where you come to talk about personal things, that doesn’t mean it is a friendship with the therapist. At times, it may feel like your therapist is a friend or is the only person you can tell things to, but the truth is that the relationship is extremely different. A therapist is not your friend, but someone who is there to help you understand how to be the best version of yourself. You don’t text with your therapist, you don’t go to lunch with your therapist, and you don’t interact with them socially. In order to maintain the professional relationship, it really means that you consider your friends/ family/ loved ones a different relationship than your therapist.
Is there ever a time when you would encourage me to leave or graduate? Or how do I know when it’s time to end or move on, or time to stay and explore more?
I always set goals with my clients for the purpose of the client being able to track their own progress. I often review the goals with the clients, and most of the time, if the client does not have any new goals, and the goals outlined were obtained, they will “graduate” from therapy. Sometimes people come back after a while, or will come once a month for “maintenance work,” but I like to have the client feel like they are ready to move on, before suggesting it.
Where did you work before going into private practice?
I have worked in two completely different settings, which I think has given me amazing experience. I worked in a non-profit mental health clinic where I worked with clients who were suffering from a range of mental health issues. I worked with clients diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety, Autism, depression, etc. The clinic was a great opportunity for me to have one-on-one sessions with clients and formulate measurable goals.
I have also worked for a private company that is an in home/ environment based company that allowed me to provide social, emotional, behavioral, academic, cognitive and familial-based support. There is always a customized treatment plan, and I have worked intensively with clients in their environment, which has allowed me to create sustainable therapeutic interventions.
Have you received any particular training beyond your post-Bachelor’s training?
I have attended a course for Applied Behavior Analysis as well as a course at the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Level 1.
What led you to become a mental healthcare practitioner?
When I was growing up, my friends would always come to me and talk about the issues that were going on. I found that throughout high school this happened a lot. I joined a mentoring program where I was able to mentor younger kids who had been bullied in school and were removed from their schools. It was so eye-opening to me that these kids and people did not have a safe place to talk about how they felt and how much they were suffering. It was almost as if they lost all hope in who they were and had never thought to even tell anyone what was going on. I knew at this stage that I wanted to go into the field to give more people the space to talk about things and to spread light on mental health awareness.
What is the best part of the work for you?
The best part of my job is when someone has that “aha” moment and when a client is able to generalize the skills that they have been working on into different situations in their lives. I think it’s so amazing what you can learn about yourself and how to handle things moving forward in therapy.
What is unique about the work you do, or how have you found your work to be different than your colleagues’?
My work is honest. I give feedback and I am not afraid to really highlight to a client patterns of behavior. I always tell my clients my approach beforehand, and it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s important to me to be honest with a client if they are seeking help, and sometimes feedback that they might not see can be life changing in their treatment.
How do you approach diversity in the room or working with clients who may come from a different background than you?
I approach diversity, the same way I approach similarity. Is it affecting our work together? Why is it affecting our work together? What do you need to know from me to help us move past why it is affecting the therapeutic dynamic? Some people are shy to bring up these topics, but I truly believe that the more honest the conversation, the better the relationship and work you do is.
How can you tell if I am benefiting from working with you?
As I mentioned, I do like to work within a goal-oriented approach. I think that tracking goals, even if they are very small, is helpful to see progress or when something is not working. It’s not only progress that is important, but figuring out why something is not working is just as important, too. I refer back to the goals a lot.
How can you tell if I am feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard?
It is sometimes easy to see when someone feels stuck or unheard by their body language. I like to check in with my clients and I will always summarize what I understand of the conversation and information. I will also ask the client to correct me if any of the information is wrong, or I misunderstood. I think it’s important not only for me, but for the client to really feel like they are giving a clear message of what is going on.
How long should I commit to being in therapy, at least in the beginning?
I never like to tell anyone how long they should be in therapy. I think it is so individualized and depends on what you are working on, so it would be hard for me to say what is an appropriate length of time. I do suggest that the first 3 times are consistent, though, as I think it is important for the client to really think about and formulate goals for themselves without interruption.
How should I prepare for my first session with you?
There is nothing that you can prepare for therapy. Mentally, you should prepare to be in a safe space that you feel like you can be honest in. It’s important you let your guard down and realize that the therapist is there to help you and not judge you.
Do I need to bring anything with me?
You never need to bring anything to a session. Some people like to bring their journals or anything they have written down, and others just come with nothing!