What to expect during your first therapy session?

Seeking therapy can be an intimidating experience. Sitting in front of a stranger and having to recollect thoughts that you’ve buried away for the past couple of years can be exhausting and emotionally taxing. The idea of exploring such personal topics with a stranger can even become a reason to avoid therapy.

Over the past few years, I’ve been able to work with different counselors and therapists to help me better deal with my anxiety disorder. The truth is every single therapist has a very different approach to their clients. You may have to make appointments with different therapists to figure out who you feel the most comfortable with, or whether or not, you even like their techniques!

For those of you who may be in the process of finding a therapist, or are simply curious of what the ‘first session’ may be like – here is a general timeline of your first session:

  1. Paperwork

As you’re in the waiting room, you will be given some sort of paperwork that highlights the fees or insurance policies. It will also mention the confidentiality agreement, which means that everything said in a session will remain confidential UNLESS the client is displaying signs of harming themselves or someone else. Some therapists may even bring out a questionnaire that will ask you to tick off specific symptoms you’re experiencing.

However, some therapists tend to offer their first session for free, to allow clients to get to know them or simply feel comfortable with the idea of ‘attending therapy sessions.’ If you’re attending a free session for the first time, you may not need to do sign paperwork regarding fees/insurance policies – but you will still be informed of the confidentiality agreement.

2) Brief Overview

This is simply an opportunity for your therapist to get to know you, and develop a little insight into your lives. Some questions to expect:

  1. YOU: Where are you from? Are you a student/working? Where do you go to school? etc. (Basic introductory questions)
  2. FAMILY: Can you tell me more about your family? Are you close to them? What are the relationships like?
  3. Have you ever seen a therapist before? What is your past medical history?
  4. Are you in a relationship? What is that like?
  5. What do you do to take care of yourself?

3) Goals:

The second part of your session will delve into the whys. They may ask you: your intentions of therapy, what may bring you to therapy and what your goals may be etc. Your answers will help therapists know how to structure future sessions, as each client will need a more personalized routine to work with. If you don’t feel comfortable answering, don’t worry! To help better understand how you’re feeling, they may ask you:

  1. How are you feeling at this moment in time?
  2. What is your sleep schedule like?
  3. How often do you feel _____ on a daily/weekly basis? When did you start experiencing these symptoms?

4. Overview:

The third part of your session will be your therapist explaining the process of therapy. How will it work? What sessions will look like? This will allow you to understand what to expect in future sessions. The therapist may even inform you of the styles that they primarily focus on!

5. Safe Space:

The final part of your session will give you a chance to sit with your therapist, and simply have them listen to you. Know that this will take time, and you’re not expected to unveil your whole life in the first session. Just take your time and go at your own pace. If at any moment, you feel judged or extremely uncomfortable to share your story with your therapist, they simply may not be the ‘right’ fit, and that is okay! Do not feel discouraged by a one-off experience – therapy will only work with the right therapist!

I hope this gives you more clarity on what your first session will be like! Remember that every therapist has a different technique – and some may even have a different way of conducting the first session. This is simply a overview of what to expect!

May is Mental Health Awareness. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing posts regarding mental health, self-care, and ways to help a friend with anxiety/depression. If you would like to see coverage on a specific topic, please let me know in the comments below!


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