What to Expect and How to Prepare for Your First Therapy Session?
If you've booked your first therapy appointment, congratulations! This can be a huge first step towards taking care of your mental health and well-being. At the same time, feeling nervous or uncertain about what to expect is common and completely normal. Friends, family, and first-time clients often ask: "how can I prepare for therapy?" I want to reassure you and them that there is no right or wrong way to do therapy and no way to under prepare for it. Your therapist will work with you in whatever ways you show up. However, there are some things that might be helpful for you to know and tips to help ease the process.
First things first: It's important to keep in mind that therapy is a team effort. Your therapist is there to support you, but you also play an active role in your own healing. This means that your experience in therapy will depend on your willingness to be open and honest about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It may feel uncomfortable to talk about difficult topics at first, but the therapist is there to provide a safe and supportive environment for you to do so.
With that in mind, if you have not had an initial consultation and you are meeting your therapist for the first time, here is
What you can expect during your first session:
Introductions: The therapist will likely introduce themselves and explain what their role is in the therapy process. They may provide some background on their training and experience and answer any questions you have about their qualifications or approach.
Background gathering: The therapist will ask you questions about yourself and your reasons for seeking therapy. They may ask about your current situation, your past experiences, and your goals for therapy. This is to get a sense of what you're struggling with and what you hope to achieve.
Discussion of therapy approach: The therapist may describe their therapeutic approach and how it can be helpful for the issues you're coping with. This is a good opportunity to ask questions and learn more about what to expect in future sessions.
Questions about your mental health history: The therapist may ask about any previous experiences you've had with mental health issues or therapy, as well as any relevant family history. This information can help the therapist understand your unique situation and tailor their approach to your needs. You can always pass on questions and choose not to answer them if you're not ready yet.
Setting goals: Based on the information you've shared, the therapist may help you set some goals for therapy and discuss a plan for achieving them. This can help you stay motivated and focused on your healing process.
Asking for feedback: Therapists will often ask for feedback to know if the session was helpful for you. I share with clients that the most helpful thing they can do is to tell me when something isn't working, and then we can change our work to meet their needs.
How to prepare for your first session:
Arrive early: It can feel pretty nerve-wracking to meet someone new for the first time, especially if it's a therapist. Arrive a few minutes early, find the space, and give yourself time to settle in.
Take notes: Before your first session, jot down notes about what you want to talk about and what you hope to gain from therapy. This can help you stay focused and get the most out of your time with the therapist.
Don't be afraid to ask questions (Or feel afraid and ask anyways!): If you're not sure about something the therapist says or does, don't be afraid to ask for clarification. Therapy is a collaborative process, and it's important that you feel comfortable and understood.
Set goals: Talk to your therapist about what you hope to achieve through therapy, and work together to set specific goals and a plan to work towards them.
Be kind to yourself: Therapy is a process, and it can take time to see progress. It's important to be kind with yourself and the therapeutic process. Healing is not a linear journey, and there may be setbacks or difficult moments along the way. But with persistence and support from your therapist, you can overcome the challenges and make meaningful progress toward your goals.
Aftercare plan: Sometimes, starting therapy can bring up painful emotions. Make a plan afterwards to take care of yourself. Whether it's curling up on the couch, going for a walk, calling a friend, or whatever comforts you. Feeling tired or emotional after a session is normal and absolutely okay!
In conclusion, booking your first therapy appointment can feel like an exciting, scary, and big step toward taking care of your mental health. For many of us, sitting in a room and sharing our feelings can feel uncomfortable, awkward, and foreign. With time and the right therapist, therapy can be a space where people can feel safe being vulnerable.
If you would like to learn more about therapy, please feel free to book a free initial consultation with one of our counsellors.