As a therapist, there’s something exciting about a first session! Have you ever felt that way? Ready and eager to meet someone new, learn about their story and see how you connect? Or maybe nervous and unsure, questioning your ability to meet the client where he or she is, wondering whether you will be able to help. The stakes can feel high when there’s the added pressure of building your practice and you want every client that walks in your door to stay forever! Perhaps you’ve felt this whirl in the pit of your stomach when you were early in your career, or after making a move to a new city and establishing fresh roots, or even if you’ve been in the game for quite a while and still wrestling with the uncertainty and unknowability that comes with being in private practice. There seems, at times, so much to “cover” in the first session. History. Policies. Confidentiality. Goals. Oh yeah, and rapport building. It’s sort of an art in and of itself, don’t you think?
As we’ve been developing our Improv for Therapists workshop, we’ve done quite a bit of research on the topic (we’re just as new to this as you are, we promise!) and found a lot of qualities in improv that we value as therapists. Improv asks us for openness, flexibility, attunement and self-compassion. This honest blog post about whether or not to pursue improv reflects on real-life doubt, worry and facing the risk of jumping in and meeting your feelings, all of them, with compassion and thoughtfulness.
So what does this have to do with the first session? Well, when you have that first face to face encounter with someone, it really is all improv. You are getting to know them. They are getting to know you. And you are finding the balance of how to introduce all the necessary “first session things” with the grace of connection and heart. Openness. Flexibility. During this first session you figure out the pace and rhythm of this new relationship. When do you lean in and ask more questions? When do you step back (but not out) and allow patience for more to be said on another day? Attunement. All the while you check in with yourself and back to the feelings that stir within you. Self-compassion. You are human, and each first session is an opportunity to connect with another human, while staying gently mindful of yourself and all of your first session feels, and to meet them all with openness, flexibility, attunement and compassion.