If you’ve never been to a therapist before, going for the first time can be daunting. If you want to know what to expect during your first therapy session, you’ve come to the right place. Some people come to therapy for the first time excited and ready to tell their story. Maybe they’re excited to finally have someone to listen. However, others come reluctantly for a variety of reasons. For example, men in therapy for the first time often have been given an ultimatum: go to therapy or I’m leaving.
What to expect during your first therapy session
When you get to the office, your experience may be similar to a doctor’s appointment. You might sign in, sit in a waiting room, and wait for someone to call your name. If your therapist is in a private practice, the environment might be a bit more casual and private.
Likely your therapist will ask you to complete paperwork prior to your appointment. This allows them to review your concerns and background so they can have a better idea of your concerns before they sit down with you. This will also make better use of the time during the first session.
Your therapist should start by discussing confidentiality and how it works – even if you already read and signed the paperwork. It’s important they tell you when they are legally required to break confidentiality and what to expect if it needs to happen. This is a crucial first step in delivering expectations as well as building trust.
Ideally, they’ll first give you an opportunity to ask any questions you have. Don’t be shy. Ask whatever you want. The next step depends on the therapist, but they’ll likely start by asking about your background or what has brings you in.
Your First Therapy session
Your first therapy session will be different from future visits. The initial visit should be an opportunity for you and your therapist to get to know each other, determine if it’s a good fit, and make a plan moving forward.
It’s important to realize you have the right to ask your therapist anything you want – no matter how trivial or silly you think it is. If you don’t feel comfortable asking your therapist questions, or they answer your questions with questions, this might be a red flag.
Successful therapy requires multiple visits. So don’t expect relief on the first day. And don’t expect your therapist so solve your problems for you. Therapy is about gaining insight and learning skills to be able to solve your problems on your own.
However, you should leave your first therapy session with an increased sense of hope that you are on the path to improvement.
During the first session, you may be asked questions like:
- What triggered you to seek help?
- How long has this been going on?
- What have you done to try to solve this on your own?
- Who in your life besides you, thinks this is a problem?
- You’ll also probably be asked questions about your history, including your childhood, education, relationships, career, and current living situation.
Your therapist should clearly outline:
- What to expect during sessions.
- Confidentiality and when they’re required to break it.
- What to expect between sessions – therapy brings up a lot of shit. Not a bad thing, but good to be prepared.
- How long the process may take.
Be very wary of a therapist who makes claims indicating their approach is the best, only, or anything sounding like a guarantee. In fact, should run into this on your first session, you might consider finding someone else.
For some, it’s not easy to open up to a stranger about things you may be embarrassed or ashamed of. However, during your session, you should feel comfortable, respected, valued, and accepted. You should also feel comfortable asking your therapist questions.
For additional info and insights on how to find the right therapist or counselor, check out How To Find a Therapist Near Me.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.