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Therapy 101: The Intake Appointment


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Taking the first step to put your mental health first can be daunting. It takes an immense amount of courage to reach out and admit that you need help, and for some people that small amount of courage dissipates between the initial phone call to the front office and the intake appointment. We get it, honestly. Meeting with someone who is seemingly a stranger to you and documenting your reason for attending therapy can feel like you’re opening up old wounds. Even for the most seasoned therapy veteran, the intake appointment can feel like you’re trying to push a boulder up a hill. As clinicians, we do our best to make the intake process as painless as possible – but maybe you need to know what exactly to expect when you show up for your appointment.  


Every clinician approaches intake appointments differently, but I can give you some insight. When we meet a new client, you’ll typically have a quick introduction to your therapist. This introduction will let you know what approach your therapist will take to your care. For me, I let clients know that I approach care with the mindset that therapy isn’t one size fits all and that I am always open to a client letting me know if something about their care needs to change. I, and most clinicians, would prefer hearing from our client that we need to try a different approach instead of a client ghosting us. After some time is spent with introductions, I let a client know the bounds of confidentiality (which is especially important for my teenage clients) and let them know what to expect a session to look like. 


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Most of the time in the intake is spent gathering information that is required in our EHR. We spend time focusing on current emotional or behavioral concerns, assess risk for suicidal ideation, learn about past therapy treatment or hospitalization, and any previous diagnoses you’ve received. I usually tell my clients that their diagnosis isn’t a restricted box that tells me how to help them. This is especially important when discussing how the client feels about having this diagnosis and the tendency for clients to be misdiagnosed. Insurance requires that you are given a diagnosis during your intake, but your diagnosis can always change as we learn more about you. 


At the end of the intake appointment, I discuss scheduling that I feel is appropriate for

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the client’s needs and schedule their next appointment. The idea of seeing a therapist once a week can be scary for clients, but it is much easier for us to dig deep with client’s if we meet once a week. As you progress through your treatment, sessions can increase or decrease depending on the current needs. I also take this time to let my clients know about our policies regarding late cancellations or no-shows.  


The most important message I try to get across to clients is that this is their therapy, not mine. I might make suggestions for their care that they don’t like or infer something they’ve said the wrong way – but that’s okay! My job isn’t to have all of the answers. The therapeutic relationship is essential and most therapists see therapy as a collaborative effort. You’re the one steering the boat, I’m just here to help guide you. 


I hope this blog post helps you feel less anxious about your intake appointment! If you are still feeling anxious, let your therapist know. We know that it takes a lot to admit that you need some help and we want to alleviate any stress that we can.  


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Shelby Case is a clinician offering in-person sessions at our Louisville office or telehealth sessions! She strives to make long-lasting connections with her clients in order to facilitate positive change. As a well-known homebody, Shelby enjoys living a cozy life outside of her time working by focusing on hobbies, spending time with her spouse, getting overly invested in TV shows, or cuddling with one of her cats.

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