What to Expect at Your First Therapy Session

Taking that first step to begin therapy is significant and it can make you feel anxious or nervous.  Many people simply don’t have a clear understanding of what to expect which can lead to apprehension and hesitation.  This anxiety over the first visit is quite normal. In order to help relieve some of that anxiousness, here is a brief explanation of what to expect.

A therapist’s office is usually set up a little more like a typical living room with couches and some comfortable chairs.  Upon arrival for your first visit you will be asked to complete some paperwork, which will include insurance and demographic information, statements on confidentiality and HIPAA compliance forms.

Upon meeting your therapist, he or she will begin by asking some general questions in an effort to determine why you are seeking counseling. You should feel free to ask any questions and state specifically what you are hoping to accomplish in counseling.  For example, you may want someone who is direct or someone who will listen and offer support.  This feedback will help your therapist determine the best working relationship.  

A few other things you may want to know…

  • Your first session will typically last between 50 to 60 minutes.
  • Be prepared to describe “what’s wrong”, and express your feelings about your problems.  You may want to have some notes with you or a list of your concerns and questions.
  • Be open and honest about your feelings and share them with your therapist. You will be working together as a team and expressing your thoughts and feelings will help uncover valuable insights. 
  • Your therapist will develop a treatment plan and together you will determine your next session and frequency of sessions that will best assure your treatment success.
  • Your therapist is here to help you, not to judge you. We all have issues. Your issues are how you are, not who you are. Perfection is not an expectation in therapy. 

Therapy is a team effort. The more you understand the counseling experience and how it works, the more comfortable you will be. Most importantly, therapy is not a quick fix, it is a process of change in behaviors, thoughts and feelings. It will take time and hopefully, you will find the time you invest in yourself well worth it!  

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