Therapy is rewarding and worthwhile, but that doesn’t make the first visit particularly easy. While the idea of therapy can make you feel calm and supported, the first step can rattle a few nerves. We’re here to let you know that the first step is a gigantic step toward increased mental health and wellbeing. It’s important to acknowledge that you might be feeling some extra stress and anxiety when starting therapy, which is normal. If you are preparing for your first therapy session, or contemplating it, we are here to offer 8 essential tips for your first therapy session.
8 Essential Tips for Your First Therapy Session
Give credit where it’s due.
First and foremost, give yourself a high five for taking the first step. Making the decision to begin therapy takes a lot of courage, especially when you are preparing to share your inner world and emotions with a stranger. We encourage you to remind yourself that this “stranger” is there for you and you only. Remember to celebrate your wins through the process, both big and small.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
Throughout your therapy journey, questions will come up and we encourage you to ask them! Taking the time to write down your questions can lessen nerves and give you a better sense of preparation. While you can ask as many questions as you want during therapy, we suggest asking questions prior to your first session too! By asking about your therapist’s counseling style or what to expect at the first visit, you can clear the air and go into the process more mentally prepared.
Find comfort in the fact that everything is kept confidential.
Therapists are bound by strict federal privacy regulations to keep everything highly confidential. This means that therapists are literally your own personal diary! While everything between you and your therapist is 100% private, there is one exception to this rule. Under the circumstance that you may harm yourself or others, the therapist has a legal duty to prevent harm or contact the authorities.
Think about the end goal.
One you’ve taken the first step in booking a therapy session, we encourage you to ask yourself what you want out of it. What’s the end goal?… Share this with your therapist! It’s important to realize that going to therapy alone won’t cure the root issue, you really have to put in the effort. By goal-setting, you can share your end goal with your therapist and watch as they help you navigate through the process and hold yourself accountable.
Block out a window of time before and after each session.
We suggest adding a little time cushion before and after your therapy sessions. The idea of opening up and being vulnerable can produce cortisol, “fight or flight”, and increase your tension. Use the time before your therapy session to focus on breathing and be truly present. After your sessions, use this time to reflect or journal your progress or new emotions you may be feeling.
Check your expectations.
Keep in mind that this is the first of many sessions. This intake session will be a key component in getting to know you, and is often more valuable to the therapist than the patient. The therapist will have his/her own questions, and may gather a little bit of information across a variety of topics. While some of the questions may not be what you expected, understanding how you tackle issues and respond to distress will help prepare a plan that works for you and your goals.
Expect to feel uncomfortable sometimes.
Just like going to the gym, sometimes you’ll be really excited going to therapy and sometimes you’ll want to avoid it. Change is hard and it will be uncomfortable at times, but it’s part of the healing process.
Know that you don’t need to go into each session with some big thing to discuss.
There will be some days where you know exactly what you need to talk about and other days you may feel like there is nothing to say. Often, those sessions where you have nothing to talk about leads to the greatest breakthroughs! We tend to avoid things that are hard to deal with and may not even consider bringing them up in therapy. But with an open mind, you may discover that there’s something you really did want to talk about, after all.
How Long Will I Be In Therapy?
Therapy can take as little as a few sessions, to several weeks or years. It all comes down to your issues and therapy goals. While everyone wants an answer on how long it will take to “feel better”, there is no simple answer. The more open minded and vulnerable you are through the process, the more likely you are to find healing and healthy coping mechanisms. Remind yourself that healing takes time, don’t rush yourself!
Taking the first step and booking a therapy session isn’t always easy. If you have been looking to speak with someone, or need help understanding and navigating life challenges, the team at McNulty Counseling and Wellness takes a holistic approach to promote balance in all areas of your life. Contact us here or call us at 727-344-9867 to begin life coaching at our office or virtually in Saint Petersburg or Tampa, Florida.