Woman talking to therapist
Personal Health

What to Expect During Your First Therapy Session

If you're feeling a little nervous about your first therapy session, you're not alone. Movies and myths have influenced our ideas about therapy, and that can make it a little scary. The understanding that therapy will lead to some changes in your life can be even scarier. But going to therapy can be great for your mental health. Whether you're considering therapy or about to head to your first session, it's normal to have questions about the process. Here are answers to ease your worries and tips to guide you.

What Do You Want From Therapy?

You might not know the answer to this question, but after the first few sessions you and your therapist will figure this out together. Depression and anxiety are very common reasons to start therapy. Other people start therapy in response to trauma or a major life change, or maybe they just feel like they're holding themselves back and aren't sure why. A therapist can help with that, too.

What Happens During the First Therapy Session?

During the first visit, or even the first few sessions, you and your therapist will be assessing each other. There will be forms to complete with information pertaining to medical and family history, and your therapist will ask you questions to determine how he or she can help you and what goals you'll work toward together. Then you'll be ready to make a plan.

Therapy is often goal-oriented. Together, the two of you will talk about what you're struggling with, how to accomplish positive change in your life, and what it will look like when you reach your goals. You therapist will talk about his or her practices, and your plan will include how frequently you'll meet, the duration of your sessions, and how many months you plan to be in therapy. This plan may need to be adjusted to accommodate what your insurance will cover. Your therapist will discuss this with you, as well.

Are These Conversations Really Confidential?

Yes, with certain exceptions that you should discuss with your therapist. If you or someone else is in danger, your therapist is likely required to report it. There may also be situations where he or she would be required to cooperate with law enforcement.

You Assess Your Therapist, Too

These first few sessions are your opportunity to ask questions and evaluate how you feel about your new therapist's approach to your care. Your ability to work with your therapist is the key to your success, and it's important to be completely honest with him or her and yourself. If you find yourself changing stories or holding details back, or if you don't feel heard or safe, you might want to try connecting with a new therapist. It can take a few tries to find a therapist that jives with you.

Consider giving your therapist a few sessions before deciding whether or not it's a good fit, especially if you're feeling conflicted about therapy in the first place. You may be mixing up your feelings about therapy with the therapist themself, and that problem will likely exist with any therapist. If you're feeling resistant toward the therapist, you can always bring it up during the session. Their response to this issue may help you better understand whether they're the right therapist for you.

Posted in Personal Health

Judy Schwartz Haley is a freelance writer and blogger. She grew up in Alaska and now makes her home in Seattle with her husband and young daughter. Judy battled breast cancer when her daughter was an infant, and now she devotes much of her free time to volunteering as a state leader with the Young Survival Coalition, which supports young women with breast cancer.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.