The first session with a client sets the stage for the entire therapeutic process. Sure, we all have those sessions that hit the fan, the correct paperwork didn’t go out, a child shows up without a parent, or even an all out client tantrum. For most of these hiccups we can course correct and get into the therapeutic work seamlessly.
BUT did you know that clients (and their parents) will judge you and make up their mind about your character in 1/10 of a second? No pressure right?
The factors that clients will judge us on include likeability, competence, trustworthiness, and aggressiveness. All of this is pretty darn important seeing that one of the most important factors that determine client growth and healing is the therapeutic relationship.
In about one blink of an eye a client will decide if you are someone they can have a relationship with. Parents will decide if you are someone they can entrust the care of their child with. Children will decide if we are someone they can play with and share with.
So, because of this it is my theory that an excellent first session (i.e. the start to great therapeutic work) starts in the lobby. Before you even have the chance to say Hello. I wanted to give you four of my tips for a great first impression from the moment you meet the client in the lobby to when they have a seat in your office to settle into the intake!
All of these little things can help clients feel comfortable and safe enough to begin talking about (and playing out!) the tough stuff that brought them into therapy.
What are your favorite tips for an excellent first meeting with clients? How do you make the most of the 1/10 of a second? Comment below!
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I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC, RPT-S, and EMDR Consultant. I help other therapists grow in their passions as play therapists, trauma therapists,and child and adolescent therapists.