During your first therapy session, you might know nothing about the therapeutic process. Maybe you’ve never gone to therapy before. You could be afraid, scared that you won’t do a “good job” in counseling, but there’s no such thing as doing a good or bad job in mental health treatment. You’re there to get help and guidance. It’s OK not to know what to do. Many people are at a loss as to how to handle their life circumstances. All that you can do is your best, and the great thing about therapy is that you can tell your therapist what you struggle with, and they can help you through it
What to expect during your first therapy session
During your first therapy, you’ll get to know your therapist. At first, you might feel anxious. Talking to a stranger isn’t easy, necessarily, but hopefully, you’ve spoken to them on the phone, via email, or looked at an online profile to get a feel for who they are. That way, when you talk to them in person, you’ve already gotten background information on how they practice and might have a better idea of what your treatment will look like. You won’t devise a full treatment plan during the first session. Instead, you’ll get to know about their background, and optimally you’ll be candid about what you’ve experienced. The best place to start is from a place of honesty and willingness to talk about your emotions.
Opening up emotionally in therapy
Being vulnerable doesn’t come easy to some people. If that’s the case of you, it’s OK. You don’t have to jump in and reveal all of your information to your therapist right away. Start with what’s bothering you the most and go from there. If you feel like you’re potentially struggling with anxiety, talk about that. You can discuss how the anxiety impacts you and talk about how to develop coping techniques to cope with your anxiety. You might have ideas or insight yourself that you can tell your therapist about, and your therapist will have insight into what you’re going through from a professional perspective. It’s OK not to know why things are happening because your therapist will help you understand the reasons behind what you’re experiencing. Therapy is a collaborative process, and you should feel heard and respected by your therapist.
Depending on the type of therapy, you might jump in right away
In certain kinds of therapy such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) therapy, you’re learning a skill or using a technique that’ll require you to jump in right away. You might not build up to it, whereas in other forms of therapy like psychoanalytic therapy or analysis, you’ll find that things start more gradually. Your therapist is getting to know all about you, your history, your childhood, and any traumatic experiences you might have. You’re going to take it slow, and you and your therapist will work together to help you heal.
There’s no standard first session
There are no standard guidelines for the first session in therapy. The first meeting in therapy will always differ somewhat depending on who you’re seeing and what part of your mental health you’re targeting. The common theme is that your therapist is getting to know who you are. If you stick with it and keep going, you’ll find that the benefits of therapy outweigh any uncomfortable feelings you might have in terms of working through painful emotions. You can always change therapists if you find that that’s something you want to do.