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4 min read

I'm New to Therapy. How Do I Prepare for a Therapy Session?

A person in a therapy session

If you've never been to a therapy session, getting started with therapy can feel scary. Therapy is an unknown territory, and therefore you may be unsure of how to prepare for your first therapy session.

The good news is, after a few sessions, you'll start to feel like an old pro if you have the right therapist. In this article, we'll take a closer look at some of the things to know about therapy, what to expect for your first counseling session, and how you can feel in control as you start therapy.

Important Things to Understand About Therapy

First and foremost, the thing to understand about attending therapy is that you will get as much out of it as you put in. Successful therapy is not magic, it is truly the result of a strong therapeutic relationship and consistency in working toward your mental health goals.

This means that its important that you feel comfortable in your therapy sessions. Obviously, during your first session, you may feel nervous; that's normal. It may even take three or four sessions to feel comfortable sharing more personal information. However, you will be putting in a lot of work into the therapeutic process, so once you feel ready, allow yourself to open up to your mental health professional.

Tips to Prepare for Your First Therapy Session

Your first therapy session will be an introduction to your therapist, the flow of a therapy session, and overall give you a feel for what to expect. You may be too overwhelmed to observe what is happening in the moment, so here are some things to keep in mind to prepare for your first counseling session.

Decide What Kind of Therapy Sessions You Want to Pursue

Before you even make an appointment for a first session, decide what type of therapy will work best for you. Within the field of clinical psychology, there are a number of therapeutic approaches you can choose from. For some, it may be an obvious choice; couples counseling if you are looking for help with relationship issues, or a substance use counselor if you are trying to get sober.

However, there are more subtle delineations as well. Do a little research to find out what therapeutic approach is best for what you are looking for. Cognitive behavioral therapy sessions are a good and evidence-based choice for many types of mental illness, while EMDR can be effective for PTSD, and solution-based therapy can be a good match for someone looking to reach personal or professional goals.

Schedule Your First Session at a Convenient Time

You don't want to feel stressed or rushed through your first therapy session, so make sure that you schedule a time that works well for you. If you have trouble fitting a therapy session into your busy schedule, you can always choose online therapy sessions. Online therapy has been shown to be just as effective as in-person therapy, and yet there is often more flexibility in scheduling.

Initial Questions You Should Ask Your Therapist

Your first session is a time to get insight into your therapist and their values, explore some of the principles of your chosen approach, and decide whether your therapist is right for you. Some questions that can be helpful to ask in the first session include:

  • How long have you been practicing therapy?
  • What therapeutic techniques/modalities do you use in counseling sessions?
  • Can you accommodate my counseling needs? (examples may include LGBTQ+ affirming, religious or non-religious therapy, specialization in a condition such as obsessive compulsive disorder, etc.)
  • Based on my needs, do you think that you are a good match to help me reach my goals?
  • How often should we meet?

You may also share any specific concerns you have about your symptoms, or about therapy in general.

Write Things Down

There’s nothing wrong with taking notes! When you are trying to process everything around you during your first therapy session, it can be difficult to retain important points such as specific treatment plans and other new information. Bring a pad and paper, and jot down anything important that you hear. It's also good for writing down your initial questions and adding the answers during your first session.

Reflect on Your Session

Post therapy reflection can help you process your first therapy session, decide whether your licensed therapist is setting realistic expectations, and offer insight into your mental health. The first appointment for most therapists will involve them asking questions about your life and mental health, and they may start building a treatment plan with you. But they will also often let you go at your own pace.

What to Do If Your Therapist Doesn't Feel Right for You

Remember that the success of therapy depends on the therapeutic relationship - that is, the rapport and comfort level you have with your therapist. Sometimes you may just not click with your therapist. It's okay if you don't, but don't feel that you have to continue with them or that you have to "get over it".

If during the first therapy session you get a feeling that you aren't going to mesh well, then find another therapist. The right therapist can guide you toward better mental health, while trying to make yourself fit to a new therapist who doesn't feel right can be stressful and set you up for failure.

Change Takes Time

Mental health is much like physical health in that it takes time to see certain long term changes. Mental health professionals work with you over time to process and heal old traumas, learn stress management techniques, and build healthy wellness habits. The first therapy sessions are more of an introduction to what you can expect as far as rapport with your therapist, how counseling sessions will work, and creating short term and long term goals for your mental health.

Further counseling sessions will offer a support system, facilitate healthy coping skills, educate you on ways to build stronger relationships, and promote practicing self-care.

That first appointment at the therapist's office can feel intimidating, but starting therapy can also be one of the best decisions you'll ever make.

Scheduling a First Session in Austin, TX

Whether you're struggling with self-esteem or self-compassion, looking for treatment of a mental health disorder, or just want to talk about your own thoughts and feelings, therapy can help.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of Austin doctoral-level psychotherapists offer both online and in-person appointments, so scheduling that first session can be both easy and convenient.

Give us a call today and our patient coordinator will help you find the therapist who makes you feel most comfortable, and has the right tools to improve your mental health and well-being. 

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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