How to Prepare for Your First Therapy Session

If you’ve decided to start therapy, congratulations! You have already taken a massive step towards improving your mental health. Seeking help isn’t easy, and you should commend yourself for taking this positive action towards change. 

You don’t have to do anything to start going to therapy. That said, preparing for your first therapy session can help you feel more empowered and motivated. Here are some tips to consider before you meet with your new clinician. 

Educate Yourself on the Basics of the First Therapy Session 

Your first therapy session will look different from the rest of your treatment. In the beginning, your therapist is essentially a stranger. Like with any other relationship, this first meeting entails you two getting to know each other.

You should expect this session to include more administrative tasks like:

  • Reviewing payment and scheduling.
  • Obtaining your informed consent for treatment.
  • Discussing the limits of confidentiality.
  • Reviewing the outline, expectations, and risks of therapy.
  • Completing any required paperwork and sorting out any billing needs.

Despite these administrative tasks, it’s a good sign if you leave the session feeling uplifted or inspired. Good therapists know how to balance professionalism with compassion and validation. 

Establish Your Goals

If it’s your first time in therapy, think about what you want to achieve.

Do you want help with a specific issue like depression or anxiety? Do you need support for trauma or grief? Do you think you want individual therapy- or do you want to involve your spouse or family? 

It may be helpful to spend some time reviewing recent symptoms over the past few weeks. What stressed you out the most? What observations have loved ones made about your behavior? When did you find yourself feeling sad or angry?

You may have several therapy goals, and that’s normal. During your initial intake process, your therapist will engage in a comprehensive assessment of your mental health. Together, you will collaborate on the best goals for your treatment. 

Write Down Any Questions Ahead of Time

Keep in mind that you can ask your therapist any clarifying questions before starting your work together. Some common questions include:

  • What kind of experience do you have treating this issue?
  • What kind of therapy do you think will best help me? 
  • How often will we meet?
  • How long have you been practicing?
  • How will we establish goals and measure progress?

You may want to ask your therapist more personal questions about specific details like their religion, marital status, or political affiliations. These questions are also reasonable, as you might deem it important to work with a like-minded individual. 

Some therapists may answer your questions directly, but specific responses aren’t guaranteed. It’s ultimately up to you to decide if knowing these answers ahead of time is essential.

Clear Your Schedule Before and After Your Session 

It’s tempting to move onto another task on your to-do list after finishing your appointment. Ideally, it’s a good idea to avoid this trap. 

Carving out just a few minutes before and after the session can help you regroup and refocus on your mental health. Having this reflection time can be paramount for your self-care. 

Subsequently, some people like to create small rituals after their sessions. For example, maybe you can commit to taking a short, ten-minute walk. Or, you might consider driving home without turning on any music and simply reflecting on your feelings.

Stay Engaged With Your Process

Therapy requires commitment. You can’t just show up for your session once a week and expect change to fall in your lap. You must dedicate yourself to the growth that successful treatment entails.

Often, this growth includes taking risks, setting personal boundaries, and making behavioral changes. You may need to try new things- and these changes can feel incredibly uncomfortable. 

With that said, it’s generally unrealistic to undergo massive changes after just one session. In fact, sometimes, things actually start feeling worse before they feel better. This phenomenon happens because you’re becoming more aware of the difficulties in your life. Such awareness can be painful! 

Change can be challenging, and progress can take time to unfold. Therefore, it’s crucial to be patient with yourself and speak up if you feel something needs to change. 

Final Thoughts 

If you’ve scheduled an appointment with a new therapist, feel free to ask them what else you need to do to prepare. They can offer you any additional guidance or resources. 

But even with the best preparations in place, your first therapy session may feel somewhat uncomfortable and awkward. While these experiences are typical, the feelings should dissipate over time. 

At Willow Counseling, we understand the importance of creating a safe and supportive environment for our clients. We are here for you- whether it’s your first or tenth time seeking therapy. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation. 

Willow Counseling, PLLC – Nashville, TN

Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.


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