Understanding the Intake Process and Getting Started with Therapy
by Cira Winarto, MA, AMFT
If you are reading this, that means you have found our practice and that you are interested in starting therapy. I am glad you found us, and I also understand that it is a challenging time for you right now. It is likely that you are anxious to get started, so maybe I can help by explaining the beginning of the therapeutic process. Whether this is your first time seeking therapy or you have already sought treatment elsewhere, I want to offer some support and some clarity around what it looks like when you enter our practice.
The word “intake” is one you will hear often. An intake interview is often your first interaction with us – in fact, unless you reach out to a therapist’s direct line, the intake coordinator is the first person you will speak with. Leaving a message for us through our Contact Us page on our website or calling our office number will put you in contact with me. The purpose of the intake is to collaboratively establish what supports you are needing and if those supports coincide with what we can offer you. We do our intakes over the phone, so you can expect to hear from me shortly after making contact with us. An intake is not a consult nor is it a session – a consultation takes place between you and your primary therapist, in person. In a consult session, you and your therapist will begin to build trust, safety, and your therapeutic relationship. You will explore the circumstances in depth that led you to therapy, and you and your therapist will collaboratively start establishing existing problems or conditions, as well as designing a treatment plan.
As you may know, our practice consists of a diverse team of therapists and clinicians. All of our therapists have had extensive clinical training in the field of sex addiction, intimacy disorders, and betrayal trauma. Depending on various factors, including areas of clinical specialty and availability, you will be assigned to a therapist or therapists. Another objective of the intake is matching you to the therapist or therapists who are the best fit for you and what you are seeking out of therapy. We can make a good match by openly discussing what is going on for you and where you would like to see yourself by the end of therapy.
In our intake call, we will cover as much or as little as you feel comfortable sharing with me. While the therapeutic journey can often feel uncomfortable (as growth often is!), I will never push you on a topic you do not want to delve into. While it will be extremely helpful for me to get to know you and your situation so that we can properly assess your clinical needs, I know that it is not easy to open up to a stranger on the phone and I will respect your boundaries.
The intake call is also a great time for you to come forward with any expectations, questions, and/or concerns. Maybe you are looking for something very specific, like someone who is well-versed in disclosures. Maybe you want to go somewhere where you can get couples counseling, individual counseling, and group counseling all in one place. Maybe you are on the fence about going to therapy. Maybe you just want to know what therapy is. We can meet you where you are at, and we are here to support you. We’ll use the intake call as a time to be in dialogue around expectations and accessing supports.
Here are some things that you can expect from me:
- Discretion. Confidentiality is a requirement, but you also have my discretion. If I am returning an email or leaving you a voicemail, I will mention where I am calling from but I will not offer details or divulge personal information just in case someone else has access to it. I will ask you if you have time to chat, and I am more than happy to wait while you excuse yourself or find privacy.
- My full attention. Your time is important to me, and I take it seriously that you chose to turn to our practice. You can be assured that you will have my undivided attention and care for this conversation, and after we complete the intake, I will do my best to make sure your needs are met from here on out.
- Patience. I have had clients tell me that they have never opened up about this to anyone before. I have had others tell me that they have, but it still tough to be so open for the first time with a new person. Our style of doing intakes is to have a conversation, not to run through a checklist by reading off items in rapid succession. If it is not easy for you to share, that is okay. If it takes a while to find the right words, that is okay. If you need time to tell your story, that is okay. We can work with you.
- Curiosity. Some things are difficult to talk about, and sex, relationships, intimacy, porn, betrayal, and addiction are high on that list. Society discourages us from talking about it, and shame can often creep up on us when we do engage in dialogue around these topics. You do not need to worry about judgment from anyone at our practice. We want to understand what you are going through and your experience of these areas. When I ask questions during the intake process, I am holding curiosity around your experience, not passing judgment. I will ask about any previous experiences with therapy, how you found our practice, and specifics about what brings you to therapy at the present time.
- Referrals. If it turns out that we are not a good fit for you and we cannot provide the support you are looking for (or you are also looking for adjunct support outside of our practice), you can expect referrals and direction towards some places, people, or resources that can better fit what you are looking for.
Overall, the intake is a fairly simple process that is meant to jumpstart your journey with us. If you have questions or concerns not covered here, I am glad to address that with you. When you are ready, I look forward to speaking with you. Let’s get started.