You’ve researched and reached out, maybe called and contemplated, but you’ve officially scheduled your first therapy session, now what? We’ve outlined four things you should think through before your first therapy session.
How does your therapist make you feel?
A big factor in a successful therapy session is how you feel with your therapist. Research shows that the therapeutic relationship between you and your therapist is one of the strongest predictors of counseling outcome effectiveness. During your initial outreach calls or messages, take note of how your therapist (and the idea of therapy) make you feel, how responsive they are to your inquiry, and how their professional training matches your personal issues (e.g., if you need help with anxiety, their website should specifically indicate they have the experience and training – check out their blogs to see what they write about).
Do you like him/her/them? You don’t have to become best friends, nor does your therapist become “like a family member,” however, it is important to feel comfortable. This is the person you will disclose your most intimate ideas and feelings with.
Your therapist should always be warm, empathetic, and be non-judgmental.
How, what, when?
When you arrive at your first session you’ll likely spend a fair amount of time talking about…you! While your therapist will often be driving the initial questions, like the ones outlined below, you should feel comfortable bringing up questions of your own.
Common questions your therapist will ask during your first session:
- What brings you into therapy?
- How long have you been experiencing this?
- When was the last time you experienced this issue?
- What do you hope to get out of therapy?
- How would your life be different if the problem was gone?
What is your problem?
At times, your problem might initially look like someone else. For instance, “My mom drives me nuts. She is so controlling and unreasonable and makes my life miserable.” Fill in the blank with another person, if, in fact, your mom is a wonderful person.
As much as we try, we have very little influence on changing someone else. However, we can do a lot more and have more power in changing ourselves.
Can you redirect the “problem” from the external (it’s someone else who is the problem) to internal? Internal redirection would be, “My mom is a difficult person and I find myself feeling frustrated when I’m around her. I don’t like feeling frustrated and I want to be happier.” Being able to focus internally will help empower you and help you discover the possibilities of what you can accept, change, and accomplish.
What do you expect?
Knowing what you want out of therapy will help you, but it will especially help your therapist. Some people want to tell their story. Some people want to self-reflect and grow and have someone to guide them. When you have outlined your own goals and expectations for therapy, it’s much easier to get to work and your therapist can offer specific additional resources to support your growth (e.g., books, podcasts).
It might be too lofty of a goal to have your problems completely resolved after just a few sessions. Instead, expect that within a few sessions, you should have a clearer understanding of your problem, including the history of your problem, build a trusting relationship with your therapist, and develop a plan to work through your problem. Ongoing therapy will help you learn new skills, break unhealthy patterns, and you’ll begin to feel differently about yourself.
Showing up, literally and emotionally, to your first therapy session is a big step, and a very important one to ensure you get the support, care, and clarity you need. When you think through these considerations, know that you are setting the stage for a positive outcome — you are in control of finding a good-fitting therapist, working on the problems that are relevant to your mental health, and working towards a life that you are proud of.
If you haven’t scheduled an appointment yet…get started!
If you are ready to schedule an appointment and live in Arizona, North Carolina, or Texas, we can help. Contact us to get started. We offer virtual sessions only right now to accommodate the safety of our staff and clients during the time of COVID-19.