Many people who have never participated in a therapy session wonder what it will be like. Will the therapist ask you a lot of questions about your feelings? Will they ask you to discuss your fears? Will you have to talk about your childhood?
The truth is that different therapists handle their first therapy sessions differently. They may even encourage you to ask them questions about their lives, training, or experiences in the first session.
A TIMELINE OF YOUR FIRST THERAPY SESSION
Waiting: The first moments of your arrival to a therapist’s office may be very similar to waiting for any other kind of health care appointment. You might check in with a receptionist, fill out initial paperwork, and then wait for your therapist to bring you back for your session.
Introductions: You’ll most likely spend the first part of your therapy session getting to know one another. Your relationship with your therapist is just any other—it may work best if you’re able to connect with one another on a personal level initially. You don’t have to leap into your deepest darkest secrets immediately—feel free to talk through your favorite book or the movie you saw last week as a way to get a sense of how the two of you will communicate with one another.
Establishing Needs: Your therapist will need to know why you’re seeking therapy. They may ask what kinds of needs or issues you’d like to address in your treatment together as well as what you’ve done to manage your mental health in the past. They’ll want to talk through what worked and what didn’t to get an understanding of how best to help you.
Asking Questions: As a secondary part of understanding what you need from therapy, your therapist may ask some of the following questions:
- Have you attended therapy in the past?
- What are your symptoms?
- Do you have any mental health issues in your family history?
- How is your home life?
- Do you have a history of suicidal ideation?
- Do you have a history of self-harm?
- What do you hope to get from therapy?
- What do you want to accomplish in sessions?
More Questions: It can also be helpful to plan on asking questions of your therapist. Before your session, consider thinking over what worries or concerns you may have about treatment and then brainstorm some questions to ask your therapist. For example:
- Is this confidential?
- When would you need to break confidentiality?
- How long have you been a therapist?
- Do you have any experience with my specific type of mental health issues?
- Have you ever been to therapy yourself?
- What kind of things should I plan to do between our sessions?
WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER MY FIRST THERAPY SESSION?
The most important thing to do after your first therapy session is check in with yourself. Ask yourself how you felt your first session went, and see how you would feel about going to another one with this therapist. Remember: there’s no such thing as a one-session cure, so you may feel a little better or relieved, but your symptoms won’t immediately disappear.
Consider how you felt about your therapist specifically. Did you feel comfortable talking with them? Did you feel like the two of you could work together over a long-term time frame? If your therapist tries to give you a diagnosis in the first session or makes you feel uncomfortable for any reason, it might be a good idea to find someone else. Therapy is an incredibly individualized process, so not every therapist is going to be the right fit for you. It’s okay to interview a few before you find the right person.
Additionally, you may have some “homework” from your therapist before your next session. This could be anything from journaling throughout the week to doing a little reading that may help provide context for your next session. Remember: whatever work you do between sessions is about making you feel healthier and happier, not about getting a good grade.
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“Many people who have never participated in a therapy session wonder what it will be like. Will the therapist ask you a lot of questions about your feelings? Will they ask you to discuss your fears? Will you have to talk about your childhood?”