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Introduction | Our First Meeting | Setting Goals
Recognizing Strengths and Resources

For many people, it's scary to think about seeing a therapist or counselor. There are many understandable reasons for anxiety. Sometimes, people hesitate to call because they just don't know what to expect. For that reason, I'll explain below what I tend to do in the first few sessions. I'll also describe some of the underlying principles of my work.

More on fears about therapy>>

My approach to working with people is positive and strength-focused. It's important to acknowledge what is right in your life rather than seeing only what is wrong. One also needs to be aware of one's strengths and resources in order to change. A central premise of my work is that people always have the tools they need, although they may have to learn how and when to use them best.

Rainbow

Introduction | Our First Meeting | Setting Goals
Recognizing Strengths and Resources

Our First Meeting
Fish in Ear
Is that a fish in your ear?

When I meet people for the first time, I try to get to know them as people, rather than simply as symptom carriers or problems. I chat for awhile, gathering the basic information I need, such as names, addresses, and phone numbers. I'll find out how people spend their time--their work, school or hobbies. If I notice something interesting, I might mention it. ["That's an intriguing fish you have in your ear."] As I learn about whomever I'm chatting with, I'm also joining with them to create a safe and comfortable place for us to do the work we are there to do. And there is work to be done...

Introduction | Our First Meeting | Setting Goals
Recognizing Strengths and Resources

Setting GoalsPen
As with any work, it's good to know what one hopes to accomplish. Therefore, early in the process, I ask about goals. Often people don't have specific goals--they just know that things aren't working. I pay attention to how things will be when the work is finished, rather than focusing only on problems. Asking questions can further the goal creation process.
Question MarkQuestions I Use to Help People Formulate Goals
bullet What's bringing you here today? How and why did you decide to seek help?
bullet How will we know when you've "gotten what you came for"?
bullet What will be different about the situation or the person/couple/family when we're done?

In keeping with a positive, strengths-focused approach, I help people create positive goals. For example, if the goal is expressed as "we will stop fighting," I'll ask what they would like to do instead of fighting. One therapist and author, William O'Hanlon, whom I heard years ago at a conference, suggested asking people to think about how they would look on a videotape with no sound, 5 years after achieving their goals. Think about it. "I'll be smiling. I'll move more quickly and lightly." [See More About Positive Goals.] Next, I invite people to identify their strengths and resources, to help them reach their goals.

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Jonathan P. Levine, CSW
2300 West Ridge Rd.
Rochester, NY  14626
(585) 225-0330
jonathan@aquietvoice.com

Updated on 6/25/2002
2002, Jonathan P. Levine, CSW