With regard to first sessions, my preference, whenever possible, is to schedule a double session (1 and 3/4 hrs). Whether we can do that will be a function of whether you’re paying with insurance (often insurance does not reimburse for double sessions). Additionally my own scheduling flexibility, or lack thereof, may impact the length of our first session. These decisions are usually arrived at during our initial phone and/or e-mail interactions.
When a double session is not possible, efforts will be made to schedule two sessions in relatively close proximity to one another. I find that the more information I am able to gather early on, the better able I am to determine how to proceed with the initial phase of psychotherapy.
Once I’ve completed an initial assessment and we’ve agreed on the focus of our work together, I typically like to proceed with an in-depth social/developmental history. Exceptions to this kind of sequencing involve someone who may be in the midst of a situational crisis that requires immediate attention or if I’m seeing two or more individuals for couples or family therapy.
A social/developmental history typically takes between two and four sessions. Granted, this is a chunk of time, but looking closely at your life story facilitates my understanding the key influences that have shaped your development as well as the kinds of adaptations you’ve had to make. Essentially we all have our own unique personality style (“how” we are in the world), which is relatively stable and enduring over time. Understanding how your personality has been shaped and how it influences your functioning in the present is an important part of the psychotherapy I do, even if your diagnosis reflects a neurobiologically based illness such as bipolar disorder.