Featured

What You Need to Know to Prepare for Your First Therapy Sessions

Learn about preparing for your first therapy session, including what to expect, questions to ask your therapist, tips for feeling comfortable, and how to make the most out of your session. Understand the therapist’s role, set goals, and find the right fit for a positive therapeutic experience.

grow therapy therapist candy taylor ceballos By Candy Taylor-Ceballos, LCSW

Updated on May 10, 2024

x icon linked-in icon facebook icon instagram icon


Feeling nervous about going to therapy is normal. You’re making a huge step to work on yourself, process trauma, or open up about things you’ve never shared before.

Know that you’ll likely have many feelings prior to, at the beginning of, and all throughout therapy. All of these emotions are valid and a normal part of the process. But being prepared and knowing what to expect can help ease some of your nerves.

In this article, we’ll provide you with what you need to help you prepare for your first therapy session; including what to expect, questions to ask your new therapist, ways to feel more comfortable, and how to make the most out of your session.

Key takeaways:

  • First therapy session: Expect questions, not solutions or judgments from therapist
  • Prepare for therapy: Embrace emotions, ask therapist questions, set goals, and stay open-minded
  • Tips for session: Start slow, write down thoughts, be prepared mentally, reflect afterward
  • Make the most of therapy: Be honest, reflect on sessions, engage in self-care activities
  • Therapist fit: Don’t hesitate to find the right fit, prioritize comfort and connection in therapy

What to Expect from Your First Therapy Session

Your first therapy appointment will likely involve the therapist asking you questions about yourself, your symptoms, coping mechanisms, and therapy goals.

While this can be emotionally taxing, it’s a chance for you to open up to the therapist in ways you may have never done before.

It’s important to understand that your therapist’s role is not to solve your problems or judge the people in your life. Instead, their aim is to help you focus on what you can change or control, such as your responses and choices.

Most therapists encourage their clients to look inward, which may involve exploring past trauma, overcoming phobias, or improving interpersonal relationships.

Being honest and candid with your therapist is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It’s essential to remember that not every therapy session will be as intense as the first, and beginning therapy can take a lot out of you.

It’s OK to take therapy at your own pace.

As you embark on your journey to therapy, it’s important to remember that therapy is a process, and progress takes time. It’s helpful to approach therapy with an open mind, realistic expectations, and a willingness to learn about yourself.

By doing so, you can gain valuable insights into your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which can help you make positive changes in your life. Remember, taking that first step towards therapy is a significant achievement, and you should be proud of yourself for doing so.

Initial Therapy Questions to Ask Your Therapist

Ask your therapist how they will work with you to establish these goals. Will they ask you to fill out a questionnaire, or will you determine goals together as you go? Having a clear idea can help ensure that you get the most out of your sessions.

By asking these questions, you’ll be more likely to find a therapist who is a good match for your needs and goals.

Remember, therapy is an investment of your time, money, and trust, so take the time to find the right therapist who can help you make positive changes in your life.

Tips for First Therapy Session

In order to have a successful therapeutic process, it is crucial to create a sense of comfort. To prepare and maintain your mental well-being during therapy, consider these three strategies:

1. Start Slow

Starting with less sensitive topics can make it easier to open up in therapy. Begin by discussing minor concerns to establish a comfortable rapport with your therapist. They are skilled at facilitating conversations and will guide the discussion while maintaining boundaries. You can even ask them to clarify their confidentiality policy if you feel uneasy about sharing personal information.

2. Write Things Down

Prior to your therapy session, it is recommended to jot down the issues you want to discuss, important events and thoughts you’ve had, and any questions you may have for your therapist; additionally, writing a letter beforehand may also be helpful in explaining the reasons for seeking their help, and what you hope to achieve.

3. Be Prepared

Select session times when you’re not already under a lot of stress or anxiety, such as during school or work, as it could hinder your willingness to be candid and truthful with your therapist.

Prior to each session, allow yourself to reach a peaceful state of mind by taking a few deep breaths and reminding yourself of:

Although therapy can be difficult, being prepared for each session can make the process less challenging.

At the end of a session, your therapist will often inform you about what they plan to discuss in the next session or assign you any homework they want you to work on.

Take note of this so that you have enough time to prepare before you meet again.

How to Make the Most Out of Your Therapy Session

Michelle Coleman, a Grow Therapy licensed professional counselor with over 20 years of experience, advises those attending therapy to “be honest and remember that the therapist is there to help.”

This includes being transparent about your goals, concerns, and any challenges you may be facing. Also, remember that therapy is a process that takes time, and progress may not happen immediately.

After therapy sessions, it is helpful to take time to reflect on what was discussed and any insights gained.

Engaging in activities such as meditation, exercise, or spending time in nature can help process and integrate new information.

It is also important to continue prioritizing your mental health outside of therapy by practicing self-care, setting boundaries, and seeking support when needed.

It’s normal for the first therapy session to feel uncomfortable, but if you feel like you’re not connecting with your therapist after three sessions, it may be time to look for someone else.

It’s important to note if you feel physically or emotionally unsafe, you can and should seek out a different provider. Therapists understand that they may not be the perfect fit for everyone.

Therapy stigma and misconceptions can affect your therapy progress. So it is essential to share any hesitations with your therapist to address them. Therapists often gauge the degree of the challenge the clients face due to societal views on therapy.

Some clients may come with their family’s skepticism towards therapy, which can be addressed and processed. It’s crucial to keep your therapy confidential and recognize that not everyone needs to know about it.

Therapists understand and are trained to address mental health stigma, and discussing any concerns will help make the most of your therapeutic journey.

What to Do If Your Therapist Isn’t the Right Fit

Finding the right therapist and committing to a treatment plan are vital for achieving positive outcomes in therapy.

It’s also essential to remember that therapy is a personal process, and it’s OK to make changes until you find the right fit.

Don’t feel obligated to stick with a therapist if you don’t feel a connection with them.

Just like in life, not everyone will be a good fit for you. You have the right to search for a therapist who you feel comfortable with and who understands your needs instead of remaining with one who doesn’t.

Takeaways

Preparing for your first therapy session can be an intimidating experience. However, being aware of what to expect, the questions to ask your therapist, and tips to feel more comfortable can help you make the most of your experience.

Remember that therapy is a collaborative process, and your therapist is there to support you through your journey toward better mental health. By taking the time to prepare for your session, you can ensure that you are on the right track to achieving your goals.

If you didn’t have a positive experience with your therapist, don’t let it discourage you from seeking help. There are plenty of other therapists and resources available. Taking the first step towards therapy is a brave and important step toward better mental health.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the author
grow therapy therapist candy taylor ceballos Candy Taylor-Ceballos, LCSW

Candy Taylor-Ceballos is a bilingual and bicultural therapist with over 10 years of experience specializing in work with children, adolescents, families, and newly/expecting mothers.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

x icon linked-in icon facebook icon instagram icon