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What it’s like to start therapy at Sanctuary Christian Counseling

You’ve made the decision to seek help for whatever it is that’s making your life difficult. You’ve done the homework, and you know that Sanctuary Christian Counseling fits you well – maybe you even know that one of the therapists here resonates with you and think you’d like to give them a shot.

What are your next steps?

Well, first of all, most people either call (717-200-3158) or email us ( Each individual therapist has a voicemail box at that number and an email address (see the bottom of this page for all of them).

Generally, our assistant Patti Owens is the first person who will get back to you, though if you email or call a specific therapist directly they might get to you first. Patti will talk you through whatever questions and concerns you have and recommend the best therapist for you and your particular situation and issue. It’s not necessarily the person you resonated with – that therapist might not do the particular therapy you actually need. Patti is kind, compassionate and knowledgeable, and she helps nearly all our clients find a great fit for their therapist.

After you talk to Patti, and mostly within 24 hours (except on weekends) the next thing that happens is that you will hear from the therapist assigned to you. They will talk to you via phone, text or email regarding the specifics of therapy – scheduling, payment, requirements, etc. You will find a time that fits both of your schedules for your first appointment and a medium for therapy (online or face-to-face) and they will talk to you about the way communications can happen between you in the future. Because we are mostly licensed professionals and Sanctuary Christian Counseling adheres to the strictest of ethical standards, we have HIPAA-compliant systems in place for video therapy, email, texting and phone calls and your therapist will walk you through all of these.

And then paperwork! Like any medical practice, you will need to fill out paperwork prior to your appointment at Sanctuary. Each individual therapist handles this differently, but you can request online or paper copies of the documents you have to sign. We’ve tried to make the process straightforward and simple, and your therapist will be able to answer any of your questions about this and to troubleshoot any issues that arise. They will also go over the paperwork with you in your first session to make sure you understand it.

Once you are scheduled and the paperwork is in, you are ready to meet your therapist and get to work. Whether your therapy is virtual or in-person, this can be an anxious experience for many people who just don’t quite know what to expect. One thing to keep in mind is that all Sanctuary therapists are professionals, all are caring and compassionate individuals and all of us have been through this process many, many times. Our goal in your first session is to make you comfortable and excited to begin therapy, to help you set goals and to get to know us and understand the experience of therapy.

If you are face-to-face with your therapist, you will wait first in our comfortable waiting room in our Shippensburg, PA offices, where you can enjoy a Starbucks drink as you wait. When your therapist comes to get you in the waiting room, they will bring you to a living-room like office, and offer you a seat on a comfortable chair or couch. They will talk to you about the paperwork, what is bringing you to therapy, what questions or concerns you have, and then help you begin to set some goals to work toward with them. Occasionally they will suggest something you can do out of session that would be helpful, or begin to discuss your background, resources or stressors. At about the 50-minute mark, they will wrap up the session with scheduling your next session and finalizing payment options.

If you are meeting your therapist virtually, you will have received an invitation from our HIPAA-compliant video conferencing program, Secure Video. When the time of your appointment comes, you follow the links in the email to the Secure Video waiting room from whatever electronic device you choose to use. You will have had to have Zoom downloaded on that device, but it’s best not to open Zoom beforehand, but to allow Secure Video to open it for you. When your therapist is in the virtual room, Secure Video will prompt you to join the call – and you should join it with both audio and video, following the prompts.

Typically, the session will then continue much the same as an in-person session except the therapist will ask for your location, the nearest emergency services to you, and for a contact person to help you if that would become necessary. This is required because the therapist is not in the same room with you and might have to intervene in an emergency you could experience during the session. While we hope this would never happen – and it never has to a Sanctuary virtual therapist – we want to be prepared in case you would happen to need a physical or emergency presence where you are. Likewise, it’s up to you to manage the privacy and confidentiality of the area in which you are physically located – the therapist is not in the room and can’t easily see if there are others there or if it is otherwise unsafe. They may reschedule your session if they don’t feel that you are safe or confidential enough where you are – for instance, doing online therapy in a public or an unsafe space (like a restaurant or a moving vehicle) – for your safety. In general, none of these things are issues, and virtual first sessions include the same kinds of things that in-person ones do.

Once you leave your first session, you will have accomplished a great deal and be a therapy veteran! From that time on, you and your therapist will have connected, planned for your therapy and be able to move forward, working on your issues in the best way for you.

At Sanctuary Christian Counseling, we help grieving individuals, distressed kids and teens and couples in conflict find peace solutions and connection. Let’s begin your therapy journey today!

Sanctuary Christian Counseling

9974 Molly Pitcher Highway, Suite 4

Shippensburg, PA 17257



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