Chemistry & relationship are arguably the key components of your therapy experience. But how do you know the right fit? What questions should you ask? How do you best utilize the free intro calls therapists offer?
We sat down with Frame therapist Barbara Morales-Rossi to talk about how you can approach your initial intro-calls and your first session. She also shares tools to help you process and communicate your preferences and needs.
Q: What is an intro call and what should I expect?
An intro call is a free 15-20 min call that therapists offer before taking you on as a paying client. It can also be referred to as a “consult call” because it can go into some more in depth questions about background, what therapy is going to be like, scheduling, insurance and helping you to decide whether or not you want to work with that therapist as a potential client.
You would get an opportunity to hear the therapist’s voice, to ask a couple of questions based on the profile you've seen. It gives you the opportunity to really feel how they’re going to show up for you, how there could be a therapeutic rapport. That is probably the most important indicator, whether I'm going to be a fit, or the other two therapists that you might call later on. That really speaks to how therapy's going to go. There's so many studies done that the best intervention, if there is any, is therapeutic rapport. Do I get you? Do I hear you? Do I feel you? Whether it's through a computer, a phone call, or in person wholly matters, and this is where you are the expert of who's going to help you.
That's what we're missing a lot of the time, and perhaps that's what you're looking for in therapy - that one person that gets you.
***[It's common that someone may request an intro call with more than one therapist.]
Q: Is it normal to feel nervous before an intro call? It feels like a high pressure dating situation.
Being really nervous before an intro call is actually quite normal! It's okay to feel that way, and actually it would be awesome if you actually said that - “I am really nervous about this. I don't know what to say. I wrote some questions down but I'm blanking out.” Saying just that really opens you up, and the therapist will be able to say It's completely normal and I'll help you along the way. The fact that you even said, “I don't know what to say. How do I do this?”, that's an opening for many other adventures that you're going to have in therapy.
I kind of like to look at therapy as an adventure because you are turning yourself inside out and that can be really scary. But it can be so wonderful at the same time, because you're going to get a chance to meet yourself as you never thought you could.
Q: How can you really best vet a therapist if you're not sure what you need, or what you're looking for?
I highly recommend you write down things discussed and your reactions after the intro/consult call, close it up and come back to it in a day or two. You can then be able to formulate whether this was a good vibe or not for you, whether the therapist is for you or not. This is also a really good process for when you might want to end therapy with your therapist. By having that practice of giving yourself the time to process the intro call, or therapy, write down your questions, write down your thoughts, and bring them to the table. Like I shared before, there is no wrong question. It's curiosity, bring your thoughts and curiosity to the table and it can be discussed.
Q: If you know it's not the right fit during an intro call, what should you say?
Hopefully you will be able to say “this is not working for me”. That speaks to a lot of strength. If you can say, This is not going to work for me. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. You gave me some questions to think about. That would be great, because that's what this is about. It's a learning lesson. A therapist should never, never take it personally.
Q: What are some expectations of the first therapy session that aren't really accurate?
Some of the things I've come across from clients, and we laugh about this afterwards, is that they'll have this expectation that I am going to present some sort of magic pill, some intervention, something that's going to change their life tremendously and they won't have to do anything.
That’s an expectation I have no problem dismissing. I do think movies and social media of all sorts depict therapists as having the answer to everything and it's not true.
Therapy's about empowering you, discovering what you can do for you and not having to reach out all the time for someone else.
The first session is about intake. It's about exploring the past and how it's showing up in the present. There can be a lot of things going on that inhibit life functioning, like being able to go to work or being able to handle grief or being able to take care of your kids. First week as a therapist, I have to get to know you. I have to hear your patterns and track what's been getting in the way.
Q: If people feel uncomfortable being direct with their therapist, for example, they don't agree with something they said during the session or they're ready to end sessions altogether, what would you suggest?
That speaks to a fear of not wanting to hurt other people. What you’re doing is putting people ahead of you instead of how you feel. A really good therapist is going to call that to question because you're showing a snapshot of how you move in the world and that might be something to work on.
It's called people pleasing. When I’m working on an assignment with a client I will say, I encourage you to think of doing this assignment for yourself. It's not for me. I will let a client know if this doesn't work for you, please tell me because I need your feedback. This is your therapy. It's not mine.
If we do 10 sessions and you decide, I think I want to change and do something else, I'm hoping you can tell me that because that's a part of therapy. You can speak your mind and I'm not going to take it personally. This is you making changes in your life. This is you having that courage and strength to be able to say “This is not working. I love working with you, but I need to move on.” The practice for me as a therapist is to introduce the idea that it's okay to say no, it's okay to be uncomfortable and tell me how you feel.
Q: What would you say to someone who is interested in exploring therapy, but is really intimidated by the entire thing?
Put your best foot forward and just do it because if you can make the step towards getting the help that you feel that you need, that just speaks volumes of the other courageous acts that you're going to be taking the rest of your life.
About the author: Barbara Morales-Rossi is a California based Therapist whose specialities cover personal growth, codependency, addiction, substance use, and more. Click here to view Barbara's profile and schedule a free introductory call.
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