When you decide to begin a therapeutic journey there may be many thoughts and questions that flood your mind. These questions might revolve around what to expect, what you need to talk about, how you will feel before, during, and after the session, and whether or not this journey is actually for you.
These questions are normal and understandable. This is a big and brave step that you are taking. Take a breath and be proud of yourself for investing in yourself and reaching out for assistance. Once you have booked your first session, you have taken one of the harder steps on your journey.
Now your thoughts turn to preparing for your session and you may be wondering what the session will entail and how it will work with the therapist that you have specifically chosen.
How Does The First Session Look?
The first session of a therapeutic journey usually looks quite different to following sessions. This is because the first session can involve a lot of information sharing, building rapport, and getting a good feel of your therapist.
Your therapist will need to gain a solid understanding of what brings you to therapy and any expectations that you may have. They may ask you some questions to establish this understanding and seek clarity on your position.
The next step is usually to find out more about your background. A clinician may ask you to simply tell them about yourself or they might ask you more directed questions to gather this information. While it may seem unnecessary or intrusive, this information can be quite helpful to your therapist. However, you do not have to share any information you are uncomfortable with or feel that you are not quite ready to share.
This session is also an opportunity for you to build rapport with your therapist to see if you feel comfortable with them. The relationship between therapist and client is an important one. One session might not allow you to build a relationship, however, it can give you the opportunity to get a feel for their approach and personality. This may help you decide whether you will remain in your journey with this therapist or look for a different one. To assist you in understanding your clinician you may want to ask them questions as well. You may wish to ask them questions about their approach to therapy, what their preferred methods are, if they have any expectations, etc.
You and your therapist should also speak about the space and process going forward. This will include information regarding confidentiality, expected number of sessions, the possible cost of the journey, how often you will have sessions, etc. This logistical discussion is important because it helps to set up the boundaries and expectations of the therapeutic relationship. This may help you continue to build your trust in the space and what it can offer you.
How Can I Prepare For My First Therapy Session?
As you have seen, the first session is focused on information gathering and gaining clarity for both you and your therapist. You can help ease some of your anxiety over your first session by being prepared.
Know your reason for seeking therapy.
If you are clear about what brings you to making the important decision to support yourself with therapy, you can help your therapist understand your needs.
Think about your expectations and boundaries.
You can give some thought to what you expect from your therapist. Things like confidentiality, weekly sessions, activities or tasks for you to practice, or what you are hoping to gain from therapy. You could hope to gain a solution for a problem, a deeper understanding of an issue or behavior pattern, guidance, a safe space, or for compassion and understanding. You can also share logistical boundaries about how many sessions you can afford, what your availability is, etc.
Plan what parts of your background you are comfortable sharing.
It can be helpful for a therapist to know your current circumstances, environments you find yourself in and relationships. Understanding some family background and family dynamics can provide a deeper knowledge of where you came from and what may have influenced you. Some therapists may ask about what you remember from your childhood, others may prefer to focus on the present circumstances. This will differ from therapist to therapist based on the method they use. However, knowing what information you are ready to share might help you feel more confident to answer any questions asked of you. Remember that if you are asked a question about something you aren’t comfortable sharing, you do not have to share.
Leave some time after your session before going back home or going back to work.
You may feel a little emotional or need some time to feel regulated. Think about going for a coffee before going back to work to give yourself some time to check in with yourself. You can ask yourself: ‘How do I feel at the end of the session? Was there anything that made me feel uncomfortable or worried? What are my thoughts about the way this therapist will work?’ This reflection can help you process the experience of your first session and help you determine whether you would like to book another session with this therapist.
Will I Feel Better After My First Session?
When most people turn to therapy it is common for them to want to feel relief and an ease of the distress they have been experiencing. It is important to remember that therapy is a process and a journey. One session cannot meet all of your goals, hopes, and expectations – it is the introduction.
You may feel relief at the end of the first session because you will have taken a very scary step and it has been completed. You may feel reassured by what your therapist has shared with you and perhaps there are hopeful feelings for the continuation of the journey. You may also feel that this was not a pleasant experience as it was hard to open up and share with another person. If this is how you are feeling it could be helpful to trust in yourself and the process – and go for your next session. You can bring up how you felt with your therapist at your next session.
The thought of your first session of therapy can be a daunting one – however – you are worth the investment and care put into the choice.
There are ways you can prepare for the session to try and lessen the feelings of worry surrounding the situation. Remembering that you are in control of the process and do not have to say anything that is uncomfortable may reassure you.
If you feel that you are ready for your first session, please reach out to Therapy and Co. to book a free 15-minute consultation or initial therapy session.