Therapy 101: A Crash Course Before you Hit the Couch

We are not always meant to walk alone

It is not easy to make that first appointment, whether it is in person, over the phone, or through the perfectly acceptable buffer of our online booking system. If you have been thinking about making an appointment, or just wondering if therapy can actually be helpful for you, I wanted to provide an overview of your options in making that first appointment, things to consider and some possible concrete next steps you could take.

Making the Call (or text, email, fax)

Just kidding, I don’t think fax is an option.

That said, let’s assume you are curious enough about therapy you want to book an appointment, but are not sure how to accomplish this feat. We have some initial choices to make right from the beginning. Do you want a free 15 minute consultation, or do you want to start with a full 50 minute session. The free 15 minute consultations can be helpful in getting a sense if the therapist is a good fit, and a good time to ask questions. Some helpful questions could be surrounding if the therapist has a background in the area in which you are looking for support, how they approach helping people, and what could a tentative plan look like. Of course you are free to ask any other questions as well. Alternatively, sometimes people, know they are ready for a more thorough initial session and book a regular 50 minute session.

There are two main pathways, either through a phone call or online. Pathway One: The classic phone call. For example, for our clinic, you could call (780) 893-9091. If you have a specific therapist who you would like to chat with (take a look here) then you could say something like “I’d like to book an appointment with therapist name here” or something like I’d like to book an appointment with the next available therapist. If you are booking a free consult, you can just swap consult in for appointment.

The second pathway is through our website. You could reach out to our admin through here or book directly through our booking system here.

Regardless of the path you choose, the next steps will be to complete an intake form. This will be provided via email. It will ask a series of questions to better help the therapist understand what is bringing you in for support. You can answer with as much or as little detail as your comfortable with providing.

Of course, regardless of how you booked your initial appointment or consult, you can select whether your appointment occurs by phone, in person, or by video. Some therapists are only available virtually, so if you have a preference ensure you mention that as well.

First Session: What to Expect

While every therapist handles their first sessions differently, there are some things we can typically expect from that first session; rapport building, background gathering, and time for any questions that may have come up for you during the course of the appointment.

Rapport building, just means the relationship between yourself and the therapist. Consider how you feel during this first appointment, was it easy to talk to them, do you feel they actively listened to what you had to say? The therapist should also be meeting you half way, and may ask you about your hobbies, interests, education/employment, and about the important people in your world.

The quality of the relationship contributes to whether or not the therapist is a good fit to help you reach your goals, so it is important that you feel comfortable and safe. Usually the rapport building will happen at the beginning of the session.

The therapist will likely transitioning to gathering background, which will look different, based on what you put on the initial intake forms, but broadly speaking will explore a few important areas of your life. Each therapist will have a different approach to this, but as an example, what I will typically be curious about the important people in your world, what brought you in, when did you notice, how is it getting in the way, and what would life look like without it.

Sometimes, this part can take the rest of the session, if we have been holding on without much support, it is perfectly normal for this to take a couple of sessions. Prior to wrapping up and exploring any questions you may have, we may also work on developing a plan. This could include some information on how the the therapist usually approaches helping in this area, including some tools / strategies, and exploring what some sign posts would be specific to you, that would let you know that things were moving in the right direction.

Of course, there is usually a few minutes at the end to review any thoughts or questions you may have had throughout the session. Some typical questions I hear from clients at the end of the first session are requesting some tools / strategies, if they made sense at all (always yes) and scheduling. It is very normal for it to take a few sessions to feel comfortable asking questions of your therapist or to provide feedback. Often therapists will check in periodically to make sure what we are doing is working for you.

So, in summary, you if you are considering making an appointment, you can do that via phone or online, and the first session will focus mostly on building rapport and gathering background, and generally you won’t have to dive to deep into things right away.

If you have been on the fence about therapy, maybe a free consultation is a good starting point. Contact us here to book a free consultation!


If you’re in need of someone to talk to please book an appointment below. We are here to help. 

Geordy Murphy

MA Registered Provisional Psychologist

Registered Provisional Psychologist. EMDR and Gottman training. I work with individuals, and couples.