5 Things to Expect from Your First Therapy Session
Starting therapy for the first time or transitioning to a new therapist can feel scary in the beginning. As with most new things, you might be feeling a bit anxious or curious about what to expect.
You may have already contacted your therapist, filled out the intake paperwork, and scheduled your first appointment, but what happens next? What will the first session be like? What if you don’t like your therapist?
By the end of this post, I hope to answer all your questions so that you can feel more confident and comfortable walking into your first session. Although most therapists use a similar process, I will give you the inside scoop as to what therapy looks like with me.
1. Say Hello!
When I first meet you, I say something like “hello, I am Shaneé, it is nice to meet you.” You might respond by saying hello and telling me your name. If you are seeing me online, then I also ask you to verify your location and emergency contact. That’s basically it!
2. Review Paperwork
Well, things just got exciting!
Remember all those documents you read and signed? Well, now is your chance to hear a quick recap and to ask any questions you have about the documents, me, or anything therapy related.
I know most of us dread anything associated with paperwork, but it is important that you make an informed decision about treatment and that you understand our policies.
However, having some time early in your first session where you are just listening can be useful, especially if you are feeling anxious. Relax a bit into your seat and take a few, deep breaths. Who knows, you just might start to notice your body softening and your heartbeat slowing.
It’s okay if you forget something or don’t think of your questions until later. You can ask questions during any point of therapy.
Now you get to tell me more about what you hope to gain from meeting with me. Often, this part of the session starts to feel more like therapy.
Generally, I prefer using solution-focused brief therapy approach to goal setting. This means I am asking questions that produce answers about what you want, rather than what you don’t want. Here is an example of a client’s complaint transforming into the beginnings of a goal:
- My partner is a complainer.
- I don’t want my partner to complain all the time. I hate being around them when they are complaining.
- I want my partner to say positive things when I arrive home.
- I want to feel valued in my relationship.
I use this information to start building a treatment plan that is tailored to your needs. We will regularly check in throughout the course of therapy to measure your progress and reevaluate your goals.
Know that, unless it feels important for you to do so, you do not need to discuss the details of your problems (e.g., childhood trauma, how you cheated on your partner, family stuff, etc.).
You always have control over what you share and when/if you choose to share it.
Assessments and questions are a part of the process. Sometimes it can feel like we are having a fluid conversation. Other times, I may introduce you to the assessment, have you fill it out, or go through the questions with you. It mostly depends upon your needs and your circumstances.
If you are part of a family, couple, or group, then I may meet with you individually so that we can talk about suicidal thoughts or other concerns you have presented more privately.
Assessments are ongoing and, especially when I am seeing relational clients, they can take several sessions to complete. I know it can be frustrating but hang in there.
5. Say Goodbye
When we reach the end of your first session, you may feel that time went by quickly. That is what most clients tell me anyway.
We discuss any homework or important items and I ask you if you want to meet again next week.
Please know that you have no obligation to continue therapy. You are not under contract and you can cancel at any time, for any reason, or for no reason.
I have certainly been in situations where I felt uncomfortable around a therapist. If that is the case for you, then please listen to that gut feeling and reach out to someone else.
You are more likely to be successful in therapy when you like your therapist (Sprenkle & Blow, 2007)! Find the one that fits for you!
Hopefully, now that you know what to expect, you are feeling more confident and relaxed about your first therapy session or transitioning to a new therapist. Just take it slow and practice deep breathing.
You have no obligations, so just give it a try!
I am always refining my approach to therapy and adapting to current circumstances. Although I have given you my best effort in describing what to expect, please know that things can and do change over time.
This post was intended for informational purposes only. Please consult with your therapist regarding your care.