The first time your family steps into a counseling center, you might feel a mix of confusion, nervousness, and anticipation. These feelings are normal, regardless if you’ve had counseling in the past. Similar to other forms of counseling, whether individual adult or child therapy, your first family therapy session will be focused on introducing your family to the counseling environment and providing your counselor with the information needed for therapy.
First, you will fill out and review intake paperwork
Some counseling centers might have you fill paperwork before your first session, but paperwork can also be distributed right before meeting. Your counselor will let you know if you should arrive early to anticipate paperwork, but regardless, your counselor will review what you’ve submitted during your initial meeting.
During initial discussions, your counselor will scan through your paperwork to get an introductory view of your family and its needs—from the whole to the individual. Each family member has their own perspective on the situation that needs to be factored into the treatment. Because each person has unique symptoms that contribute to the family circumstances, your counselor might recommend supplemental therapy in some cases, such as individual or EMDR therapy.
While reviewing your intake paper, your counselor might individually speak with each family member, or speak with designated pairs or groupings. This is to get an idea of each perspective and how they might interact in the presence or absence of each other.
Second, you will work with your therapist to create a treatment plan
Your family’s treatment plan will be fluid, changing with your family as you embark on the journey to strengthen your bonds. Working with your counselor, you’ll create and mold an overarching plan for the whole family that might include individual sessions for each person. No family or person are entirely alike, so your counselor will help you tailor treatment to your exact needs, then make adjustments as needed.
Adjustments can include the length and frequency of each counseling session. Typically, sessions are weekly and run for 50 minutes. Your overall program could be ongoing without a specified end date, run in monthly increments, or be woven with additional counseling sessions. Your family’s main program might involve the entire family sitting in the same counseling room, or a few core members sitting while others occasionally step in. It depends on what you and your counselor view as the best choice for the time.
Third and finally, you will decide if this counselor is the right fit
At the end of your first session, you and your family should be confident that your counselor is the best choice. The counselor should have demonstrated a strong understanding of your family’s symptoms and how to approach them. With the right counselor, your family’s bonds will repair stronger together, allowing for a happier and healthier future. If you feel this is the right counselor, let them know you’re ready to begin transforming your family.