You have taken the first step in your journey to improving your mental health and overall well-being. You have scheduled your first therapy visit! Be proud of yourself for taking that step because it can certainly be nerve wracking and scary.
So…now what? If you are new to therapy or are returning to therapy after some time, check out this blog to find some helpful information on what comes next. Each therapist will have a different approach to therapy, but here are a few tips on navigating your first session.
Before You Arrive
Take some time to collect your thoughts and identify what has led you to seek therapy. There are many unique reasons why someone may seek therapy. Have you recently gone through a big life change like a change in employment, a move, or a divorce? Have you been feeling easily overwhelmed with life and struggling to balance it all? Ask yourself what you are hoping to get out of therapy. Your therapist will ask questions to gain this information but it is helpful to identify what you want so that you can communicate it clearly to your therapist.
Arriving at the Office or Before You Log on for Telehealth
The first session of therapy is often referred to as the “intake session”. Before you begin, you will be expected to sign various consent forms. Each counseling center will have their own set of consent forms and rules that you must follow but some common consent forms include an informed consent form, a telehealth consent form, policies consent form, and more. These forms typically review policies and procedures for the counseling center including HIPAA, consenting to mental health treatment, cancellation/late fees, the need to attend sessions sober, and more. The forms can be lengthy but they are important! Be sure to read these forms carefully and in their entirety. Feel free to ask questions if you do not understand the forms.
During the Session
You have made it into the session and are wondering what will happen now. It is normal to feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. You are talking to a stranger…we get that it is intimidating! Your therapist may start with verbally reviewing some of the important policies that were outlined in the consent forms such as the limits of confidentiality and mandated reporting. The therapist may then give a brief introduction including their license information, their approach to therapy, and more. The therapist may then begin asking open ended questions to gain insight into what brought you to therapy, what your goals are for therapy, and to simply get to know more about you (ex: your interests, your family dynamic, and more). Some therapists choose to take notes during sessions, either mentally or by writing them down. These notes often help the therapist with their documentation that they must complete following an intake session. If you have questions or concerns about what they are writing, ask them! Many therapists value transparency and will allow you to see these notes. Some examples of questions that the therapist may ask you during the session include:
Do you have any history of therapy or mental health treatment? If so, did you find it helpful?
Tell me about your family and your home life.
Tell me about the breaking point that led you to seek professional help.
What are the current stressors in your life?
What coping strategies are you currently using to manage your symptoms?
What do you hope to get from therapy?
While the therapist is going to try to get a good bit of information from you, do not feel that you must divulge your deepest darkest secrets in session one. Rome was not built in a day and rapport will also not be built in a day. Therapists understand that it will take time for trust to be earned.
Questions to Ask Your Therapist
Your therapist will be focused on building trust and getting to know you during the initial session, but remember this is also YOUR opportunity to get to know your therapist as well! Your therapist may ask if you have any questions or concerns at some point during your session. Consider writing down questions to ask your therapist. Some questions that may be helpful to ask include:
What kind of experience or training do you have?
What kind of education did you receive prior to becoming a therapist?
What kind of professional license do you have?
Do you have any specialties or populations that you have a lot of experience working with?
What should I expect during our sessions?
Do you provide any articles to review or homework to complete in between sessions?
What should I do between sessions?
The therapist will answer any questions and address concerns. The therapist may then obtain some feedback from you about how you feel the session went. Be honest! This feedback will give your therapist insight into how they can better support you. The final step will be discussing scheduling follow up appointments. The therapist will educate you on the importance of attending appointments consistently and frequently for therapy to have a true impact. And that is that…you have done it! You have completed your first therapy session!
After the Session
Therapy can take a lot out of you emotionally so do not be surprised if you feel pretty drained after the first visit. Take some time to reflect on the session and journal or jot down any particular key moments to help you further process. It is important to remember that therapists are not one size fits all. Not every therapist will be the best fit for you and THAT IS OKAY! Pay attention to how you feel during the session as well as how you feel after the session. Did you feel like you vibed with the therapist? Did you feel understood and respected? Did you feel safe? Did you have any concerns? Take some time to reflect on the visit and identify if you feel the therapist is a good fit for you. It may take a few visits for you to get a true feel for this. Advocate for yourself and request a transfer if you do not feel comfortable with the therapist you were assigned to. As therapists, we genuinely want the best for each client and we want you to feel empowered to speak up for yourself.
If you are located in Texas, our team of therapists at Natural Balance Counseling would be honored to walk alongside you and support you. You can request a free 15 minute consultation now by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or submitting an inquiry right here on our website! We are available for in-person visits or telehealth visits. You are not alone. We are here to help!