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What can you expect during your first appointment with me?


Taking the first step is often the hardest in any endeavor, especially when there are risks involved, such as sharing your personal thoughts and feelings with a perfect stranger (in this case, me). By the time you’ve arrived to your first appointment with me, you have already taken what could be the most important step on your personal journey to wellness—you’ve made the decision to seek help. Although I cannot claim to know what you are thinking as you walk through my door, please trust me when I say that I do recognize (and deeply appreciate) the courage it took for you to get here.

After greeting and welcoming you to my horse ranch at the base of the majestic Mt. Shasta or into my Ashland office, we will sit down comfortably on my pastel colored overstuffed leather furniture, where you will notice there is no desk, filing cabinets, or fluorescent lights. My hope is that you will find the environment safe and relaxing, anything but clinical. I will check in with you to see how your day is going and ask if you have any brief questions before we get started with our paperwork.

While at other times you may feel rushed and, as a result, might find yourself skimming quickly over forms to see where you need to date and sign, these documents serve a critical role in our working relationship from this point forward, and, for this reason, I will go through them with you, line by line, taking all the time we need, explaining what is being said and asking if you have any questions or concerns. I have included a list of these documents below, all of which can be downloaded in pdf format from the “forms” page of my website:

  1. PROFESSIONAL DISCLOSURE STATEMENT (PDS): This document serves as the legal contract between the two of us and should answer most of your questions, even those you had not yet thought to ask. It describes 1) my credentials and 2) theoretical approach to counseling (also known as counseling style), 3) possible goals and 4) side effects of counseling, 5) the cost, 6) duration, and 7) frequency of sessions, 8) how to cancel and reschedule appointments, and what to do if you have 9) a mental health emergency or 10) concerns about your treatment from me. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the PDS 11) clarifies your right to privacy and confidentiality through federal HIPAA regulations and 12) my role as a mandated reporter. It is important that you understand and feel good about our working relationship as it unfolds over time, so we might revisit this document again at a later date once our work together has commenced. I will give you a signed copy of this document to take home for your records and future reference. You can download a copy of my professional disclosure statements (one for counseling and one fore life coaching) by clicking COUNSELING PDS or LIFE COACHING PDS.
  2. FACE SHEET: The face sheet is relatively straightforward. It is a single page document that asks for your demographic and contact information for your chart (i.e., name, address, phone numbers, date of birth, etc.). You can download a copy of this document by clicking FACE SHEET.
  3. NOTICE OF PRIVACY PRACTICES: I am required by Federal law to give you this Notice about my privacy practices describing how they affect your rights and my legal responsibilities. You do not sign it; rather, it is yours to keep for future reference. This document can be downloaded by clicking NOTICE OF PRIVACY PRACTICES.
  4. NOTICE OF PRIVACY PRACTICES RECEIPT: Also required by Federal Law, this short single page document asks you to show (in writing) that I have provided you with the document described in number three above (the NOTICE OF PRIVACY PRACTICES). This goes into your chart. You can download this document by clicking NOTICE OF PRIVACY PRACTICES RECEIPT.
  5. AUTHORIZATION FOR RELEASE OF PROTECTED HEALTH INFORMATION: Bringing the paperwork to an end, this form is likely to be the last document you will review during your first visit. This form is different from the others, because you need only sign it if you would like me to collaborate with another professional on your case (i.e., your general practitioner, psychiatrist, attorney, social worker, probation officer, or school teacher). Release of information authorizations (often referred to as ROI’s) give you complete control over who gets access to the sensitive information contained in your medical charts. With this document, you can declare exactly which parts of your chart can be seen, who gets to see it, and the length of time the information will be accessible. For example, let’s say I’m helping you with emotional distress following a car accident. You might decide it would be beneficial for me to consult with your medical doctor and review your medical records. You would sign one of these release authorizations, which I would then fax to your doctor, granting me permission to speak over the phone, meet in person, and or request chart documents from this doctor. The information release can go both directions, so that in the example above, you might also grant me permission to share specific components of your counseling information with the doctor. Without such a document, and excluding mandated reporting scenarios, I will protect your privacy to the fullest extent possible. In fact, as described in the PDS documents above, I will not even acknowledge you are a client of mine unless you have filled out one of these releases authorizing me to do so.

Once we’ve completed your paperwork and I have answered any questions you may have had about it, we can now move on to the intake assessment, which is a fancy way of saying we’ll begin exploring the background that brought you here. For instance, I will ask you about any cultural or spiritual beliefs you would like me to take into consideration during our sessions together and in selecting appropriate treatment interventions. I will also ask you about your family constellation (siblings, parents, children) and current living situation (where and with whom you are living and the quality of your relationships with them). I will ask about your physical health, such as whether you have had any injuries, traumatic experiences, or medical conditions and whether you are taking (or have known allergies to) any herbal remedies, food supplements, or prescription/over-the-counter medications. We will discuss whether you use or have used alcohol or recreational drugs, and if so, how you would characterize your use (was it experimental, social, abuse, or dependence?). Another topic we will explore is your mental health and whether you have ever participated in counseling before. If you have, how was it for you and is there anything we can learn from that experience to make your time with me more productive and fulfilling?

Finally, using all of the information we’ve gathered together, we will discuss possible goals for our future sessions and strategies we can use to meet them, keeping in mind, of course, that we are free to make changes along the way as needed. I feel it is important to note here that although my natural counseling style is Rogerian [Person-Centered, Humanistic—(click here to learn more about my natural counseling style)], I take an eclectic approach to choosing interventions, using a combination of evidence-based psychotherapeutic models as needed. In a sense, I believe strongly in the “no plan is the plan” ideology when it comes to helping my clients. This does not mean I do not take a methodical approach to your care, far from it. As in working with horses, to do otherwise would be analogous to applying a “cookie-cutter” approach, treating everyone the same way regardless of their individual needs at the time. To give you the best possible care, you and I need to follow the issues that are most salient for you (the issues that have the most meaning and relevance to your life) as they reveal themselves. As you might expect, the exploration of these topics can lead to the discussion of other salient topics, and for this reason the intake assessment typically takes up the remainder of our first session together. The time it takes to go through both the paperwork and intake assessment tends to be between 1.5 to 2 hours.

One thing I want to make perfectly clear to you from the onset is that at all times within this and any other session you and I spend together, I will respect your right to refuse to answer any questions or participate in any therapeutic activity I might suggest. Please know that giving me such feedback will not hurt my feelings. On the contrary, I welcome it, because it allows me to better customize your treatment to suit your individual needs.

I truly hope this page helps to demystify what you can expect to experience during your first session with me. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have that have not been addressed here.

© Chera Sabankaya 2011-2016

Spirit and Logic, Inc. is a Registered Trademark

Last Updated January 4, 2016