The first time going to therapy can be really overwhelming and intimidating. The process of making that first appointment is often anxiety provoking for many people. It is common to experience fears related to being judged by your therapist, not liking your therapist or even worrying about if your therapist will like you. Making that first appointment may take some time and that is ok. If you are experiencing a lot of anxiety while searching for a therapist it can be helpful to remind yourself of why you decided to go to therapy in the first place. If this is your first time going to therapy, you may be wondering what to expect. This blog post will give you a better understanding of what to expect in your first therapy session and help you prepare for it.
During your first session, your therapist will go over a few key things: limitations of confidentiality, agency policies (cancellation fees, etc.) and will begin establishing a relationship with you. The first session is an opportunity for you and your therapist to get to know each other. Your therapist will probably collect some background information, such as: your hobbies, the relationships in your life, you career and so on. This will provide your therapist with a picture of your life, and understand the resources you have available to you. For example, if you are someone who enjoys painting, I may keep this in mind as a potential coping skill or self-care activity for you. After this, your therapist may ask you why you decided to begin therapy. This will help your therapist understand some of your goals and expectations of therapy.
Talking to your therapist for the first time may feel a little awkward because of the unfamiliar nature of therapy. A stranger will be asking you some very personal questions; which is not a situation we encounter often. Over time, as your relationship with your therapist strengthens, you will begin to feel more and more at ease. Here are some things you can do to feel more comfortable in that first session:
- Don’t be Afraid to Set Boundaries: if there are certain topics you are not ready to talk about yet, tell your therapist. This will help your therapist set the pace of therapy and make sure you do not feel overwhelmed during your sessions.
- Communicate: talk to your therapist about your style of communication. Let them know what you respond best to and how you learn. This will help your therapist have a better understanding of you and allow them to tailor therapy to fit your needs.
- Dress Comfortably: when we meet someone for the first time, we often want to present ourselves in a certain way; especially when it is a vulnerable experience like therapy. The more authentic you are in your session, the more comfortable you will feel.
- Prepare: it can be helpful to prepare for therapy before your session. This will help decrease anxiety and make sure you address everything you want to. Think about what your goals are for therapy. It can be helpful to reflect on what made you decide to pursue therapy and what you want to get out of it. This will help your therapist formulate a treatment plan for you and understand your desired outcome. These goals do not have to be concrete or very detailed. That will be done during the therapy process as you begin to work on your goals.
- Think About Your End Game: at the end of therapy, what do you want your life to look like? This question is helpful for several reasons. For one, this will help you keep track of the progress you are making in therapy. It will provide you with a general direction and ensure that your time in therapy is spent well. Additionally, this will help you know when you have achieved your goals and when you are ready to move forward. A therapist has a very unique job, in that their goal is to work themselves out of a job. Therapists hope that one day you will not need them anymore because you have the skills necessary to accomplish your goals on your own. To achieve this, you need to ask yourself this: “How will I know that therapy was successful? That my goals were achieved? What will that look like? How will I feel?”
I hope this blog post eases some of the anxiety and stress you may feel about beginning therapy. Don’t be afraid to share some of these thoughts with your therapist when you meet. Remember, this is your hour and you can make it whatever you want. Therapy is solely about you and your needs. There is always room for you to share your fears or ask questions; in fact, it is encouraged.