You've taken the step of finding a therapist and scheduling your first session — well done!

A man clapping

But you've started to feel a bit anxious and nervous about preparing for the session.

Person says

With a little preparation, you can manage those feelings and be sure that you'll make the most of your time with the therapist. 

Setting Things Straight

"It was hard enough choosing a therapist, now I have to prepare for my first session?"

I hear you, but setting the ground rules and having the bigger picture and right context in mind will help you greatly in therapy.

And the number 1 rule to keep in mind throughout therapy is that this is all about YOU. As you're preparing for your first session, remember YOU are the one who's deciding if this therapist is for YOU. A therapist's job is to help, not judge or critique you, and if they aren't helping it's time to find another one.

Two guys pointing at the screen saying

What to Expect

Your first therapy session may involve discussions related to the following:

Housekeeping Tasks

  • Handling insurance and billing information.

  • Completing initial paperwork (e.g. your address and emergency contact information).

  • Discussing confidentiality and the cancellation policy.

Start-up Questions

  • What brought you to therapy?

  • How long have you been experiencing your current challenges?

  • What are some strategies you've tried to address those challenges?

A man smiling saying

What to Talk About

Reflect on what you want out of therapy. Write down:

  • Your goals

  • Problems you're facing

  • Thoughts and emotions that bother you

  • Past experiences that you need help to cope with

A man writing on a desk looking up to think for a second then continues to write

Bring your list to the session and share what you're most comfortable with your therapist. Whatever you feel is too weird or embarrassing, your therapist has probably heard a thousand times. Nothing is off-limits.

Quiz

Nicky is going to her first therapy session. She made a list of topics that are bothering her. What should she share with her therapist? Select all that apply.

Questions for Your Therapist

A man gesturing to his eyes saying

Get acquainted with your therapist in preparation for your first session. Schedule a phone consultation to ask questions like:

  • "What’s your approach/strategy for treatment?"

  • "How will we measure improvement or progress?"

  • "Which of the topics I mentioned will we prioritize?"

  • "Will there be assignments and homework? What are they like?"

  • "Is there an expected duration for therapy before noticeable improvement or overall recovery?"

Their answers will help to determine if they're the right fit for you!

Other tips

Prepare a list of all medications you use. This should include over-the-counter drugs and natural supplements, as they can affect your mood and mental health. Flaticon Icon

Clear some space on either side of your appointment. Try to have some time to mentally prepare before the session and sometime after to process what you discussed. Flaticon Icon

Dress for comfort. This isn't an interview or an outing. Just relax and be yourself. Flaticon Icon

Tell a friend or loved one. Having a support system to check on you after your first session and other visits can help. Flaticon Icon

Always Remember

  • This is for YOU. You're the priority, so communicate clearly to your therapist why you are there.

  • Your first therapy session can be emotionally draining, even if you don’t initially expect it to be. It's okay to release emotions in your first session.

  • Be kind to yourself. Making strides takes time and therapy isn't a magic cure-all.

  • Therapist-client compatibility is very important. It's perfectly fine to find a new therapist if you feel a disconnection. Trust your gut!

    A cartoon figure patting itself on the shoulder with

Take Action

Breathe in-Breathe out- You got this

As you prepare for your first therapy session:

License:

Your feedback matters to us.

This Byte helped me better understand the topic.

Get support to take action on this Byte