At Given Guidance Family Counseling in La Crescenta, California, we get asked this question a lot. Seeking help from a licensed mental health therapist can be an easy decision for some people, but for others it can lead to anxiety and nervousness.
You may wonder:
- Will the therapist force me to talk about my feelings?
- What if I don’t feel comfortable?
- Will I be laying on a couch while the therapist looks serious and takes notes?
- What if I get anxious and want to leave early?
If you feel anxious about your first therapy session, you’re not alone! It’s completely understandable that you feel this way. After all, you’re meeting your therapist for the first time, they’re still a stranger to you, and you may feel vulnerable and nervous about sharing deeply personal feelings and information with them.
You are in control
It can be helpful to remember that getting help through therapy is always your choice. You are in control of this process. You can choose what you say to your therapist and when, you can ask any questions that are troubling you, and you can choose whether to continue therapy or not.
Many people don’t realize that you can also choose to switch to a different therapist if you don’t feel completely comfortable with your current therapist. Your therapist will not be offended if you don’t click with them and want to switch. They understand that therapy is a deeply personal journey and you need to feel comfortable and safe with your therapist.
You are in the driving seat throughout your therapy journey. Your therapist wants to help you heal and reach your goals, and they have tools, experience and training to help you do that. But your therapist is also deeply respectful of your right to choose what to apply, what to share with them, and what you would like to focus on.
So what should you expect from your first therapy session?
This first session gives both you and your therapist an opportunity to discuss your concerns and challenges, to decide on your goals for therapy, and to generally see if you’re a good fit for each other.
All our therapy session rooms have comfy chairs or a sofa. You and your therapist will sit wherever you feel most comfortable and just chat. Don’t worry – your therapist has done this many times and knows how get the conversation going!
You don’t have to launch into talking about your deepest feelings immediately. Most relationships don’t start this way anyway – you can chat about a movie or book you just finished, and see how you both communicate with each other. If you’re nervous and don’t know what to say, don’t worry – your therapist will start the conversation and help you feel comfortable.
Your therapist wants to get to know you and what you need. They may ask you questions like:
- Have you attended therapy before?
- What did you like or not like about it?
- What are the symptoms you’d like help with?
- Are there any mental health issues in your family history?
- What is your home life like?
- Do you ever have thoughts of suicide or self-harm?
- What is your ideal outcome from therapy?
Questions like these help your therapist to quickly understand your challenges and goals.
Is there anything you can do to prepare for your first therapy session?
Absolutely! You might want to jot down on a piece of paper some of your concerns about therapy or any questions you have for the therapist. You might ask:
- How confidential are our therapy sessions?
- What treatment plan do you think would help me?
- How long will I need to be in therapy?
- What experience do you have with my specific challenges?
- Have you ever been to therapy?
- What should I do between our sessions?
It can also be helpful to write down what specific symptoms or challenges you would like help with. You might have them clearly in mind now, but they can sometimes slip out of your mind when you feel nervous.
After your first session
Check in with yourself. Ask yourself, ‘How did I feel about that? Did I like/feel comfortable with the therapist? Is this something I want to pursue?’
Addressing your challenges and reaching your goals through therapy takes commitment and effort from you. But your therapist will be there every step of the way to guide you, support you, and reassure you through the journey.