What's the first session like? Honestly, it can be a little awkward! Many people experience a mixture of fear, anxiety and anticipation when they come to their first therapy appointment and this is totally normal! After all, you are taking a step of faith when you start counseling, and of course that can feel intimidating! Just keep in mind that first session jitters are perfectly normal and usually diminish with time.
Here’s what you can expect that first hour:
My office is located in a 100-year-old craftsman home that has been converted into a healing arts space. It is a safe, comfortable environment I share with several other licensed professionals and designed to help you feel welcome and relaxed. In our waiting room you'll find tea, filtered water and a river rock fireplace. When it’s time for our session, I'll come meet you and take you upstairs to my office. We'll go over your initial paperwork, I’ll collect necessary information such as your medical history and then I’ll attempt to gather the details about what brings you to therapy. We will talk about how you have tried to solve your problems in the past and what worked for you and what didn't. You can expect in this first session to begin to gain some insight. Before we end, I may give you some tasks to focus on for the week. When you come for your next session, we’ll go over how your week went and continue from there.
What does your counseling style look like? There are a couple of things I tend to focus on. First, I provide you with a safe place and time to share your story. Secondly, I offer support , insights and tools so that you will feel confident enough to try out new ways of thinking out in the world. Finally, and most importantly, I seek for you to have a fresh understanding of ’why’ you are making these particular choices so that you can change your response to the ‘the why’ and move away from the old story and into something far greater.
Here are some things you can expect from your time with me:
Attentiveness, guidance & compassion
Insights & connections that reveal long-standing patterns and negative behaviors
Practical techniques to carry out facilitate change
How will I know if you're the best therapist for me? The clients I am successful with are usually having problems in relationships that stem from low self-image & compulsive behaviors. Many of them have a strong sense that they are not living up to their potential. Ultimately, if you are looking for a time to reconnect, if you are willing to be authentic with your feelings and you are open to use a little courage and hope with some new methods, then I might be the type of therapist you’re looking for. Some of the patterns I specialize in include:
Feelings of Depression and Anxiety: Disappointment with life ~ Feelings of anger about the past and anxiety about the future
Relationship struggles: Ongoing conflicts with loved ones ~ feelings of loneliness ~ difficulty finding and maintaining healthy relationships ~ social anxiety
Family Counseling: ~ Family conflict resolution ~ re-defining family after divorce or loss ~ Restoring family communication
Adolescent Counseling: Peer pressure & low self-esteem ~ social anxiety ~ relationships with other family members ~ ‘hidden’ behaviors ~ sexuality and relationships ~ self-harm
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for highly intense emotions and self harming behavior
Quarter Life Crisis: Feeling overwhelmed and/or underwhelmed by what life has to offer ~ Feeling lost and uncertain about the future
Non-Substance Related Addiction & Recovery: Experiences of being stuck in the cycle of using food, the internet, sex and relationships as a way to find fulfillment and feeling let down and unfulfilled
Spirituality and Faith: Questioning God ~ Questioning Life ~ Feeling stuck in a spiritual rut ~ Struggling with longings for deep, spiritual connections
Raising self-esteem, and self-worth,
Overcoming childhood trauma including abuse, abandonment and neglect ~ negative family patterns ~ addictive or co-dependent families ~ attachment difficulties
Isn't therapy a form of self-indulgence? When you think about the harm that can come from ignoring the pain that makes you and the ones around you suffer, good therapy is the opposite of self-indulgence. Self-indulgence usually involves activities that eventually leave you feeling empty and bring no permanent change to your life. In contrast, good therapy is a heartfelt effort to make changes in how you relate to yourself, your relationships, your work and how you choose to spend your time on this earth. It is saying YES to the invitation to become the change you wish to see in the world. By that definition, choosing to engage in therapy is a generous act that benefits you and those around you. Here are two quotes the encapsulate how therapy as a way to care for yourself and the world at the same time: We truly help others by working on ourselves. When we come to the knowledge that the only power we have is over our own choices, we no longer struggle with taking responsibility for what is not ours to be responsible for. When we choose to be happy our joy works like a lighthouse for others to do the same.” ― Raphael Zernoff +
For a man to withhold helping someone in order to first assure personal fortification is not selfish, it is to elude needless self-destruction. Martyrdom is only practical when ones goal is to die, otherwise a good man faces the consequence of digging a hole from which he cannot escape, and truly helps no one in the long run.” ― Mike Norton, Just Another War Story
What happens if therapy feels too intense for me? How long will it take? Some sessions are light & easy, some are full of raw emotion, and most are a mix of both. I try to keep things at a comfortable pace while gently encouraging you to grow. Most clients come in once a week or every other week. Some clients are in therapy for just a couple of months and others enjoy the benefits of long-term therapy. Some clients occasionally take a break from therapy altogether and come back at different seasons in their life. Your therapy experience is ultimately in your control and each session is what you make it.
How will my privacy be protected? Washington State Law protects communications between a client and therapist. Without written permission from the client, a therapist may not disclose information with anyone but the client and their health insurance provider. There are a few exceptions to this rule:
Suspected or reported abuse of a child, elderly person or dependent adult. A counselor is obligated to inform appropriate authorities.
When a client threatens violence to another, the counselor’s requirement is to notify the police.
When a client intends to harm themselves the therapist first makes attempts to work with the client to re-establish safety. If the client is uncooperative, other precautions are warranted.
Do you accept my insurance? The Affordable Health Care Act (aka: Obamacare) requires that all insurance plans include mental health coverage. Currently, I am an out-of-network provider for most insurance plans. Many therapists are going this route, so regardless of who you chose as your therapist, you should check with your insurance carrier to know what this means for you. Be sure to ask the following 2 questions:
1) What is my out of network coverage per therapy session?
2) Is my out of network therapy subject to deductible? If you you need more assistance, just let me know.
Why is therapy so expensive? This is a fair question. I certainly remember wondering this when I first saw a therapist back in the day. Today I know that the amount of time and money people invest to become a successful therapist is a labor of love that is given with the hope of being able to make a difference in the lives of others. There is a brief article titled "Why Does Counseling Cost So Much? that gives a great summary of why fees are what they are. You can find that article here. Hopefully you'll find that most therapists take home a modest wage and do what they can to keep fees low for their clients.
Do you offer a sliding scale? Yes! It is very important to me that therapy is affordable to people in different stages of their financial life. If a sliding scale would be helpful for you, just let me know.
What sort of families do you work with? A variety. I have worked with adult children trying to reconcile their relationship with their aging parents as well as single parent families who just needed a structured time and place to work things out. Family therapy is usually one of the quickest ways to see changes in day to day life and even if there are people in the family that are unmotivated to come, after a session or two they usually start to open up.
What makes therapy successful? The secret to success in therapy lies in finding a therapist you can connect with and working hard both in and outside the session by putting your new insights into practice.
If you are seeking to start therapy but still have a few questions, please contact me for a free consultation today.
Sharmayne Arrington, LMHC
My office is located in Tacoma, WA. and my address will given after our phone consult.