WHAT TO EXPECT AT YOUR FIRST THERAPY APPOINTMENT

BY STEVE BRESSERT, PH.D WITH CHANGES BY JENNY SEISS, PSY. D., HSPP
 

Many people feel nervous or anxious about their first appointment with a therapist.  Knowing what to expect can help you feel more at ease and comfortable.

 

In your first session, the therapist typically will ask certain questions about you and your life.  This information helps them make an initial assessment of your situation. Questions they may ask include:

 

Why you sought therapy. A particular issue probably led you to seek counseling. The therapist has to understand your surface problem(s) before they can get to the deeper issues.

 

Your personal history and current situation. The therapist will ask you a series of questions about your life. For example, because family situations play an important role in who you are, they will ask about your family history and your current family situation.

 

Your current symptoms. Other than knowing the reason you sought therapy, the therapist will attempt to find out if you are suffering from other symptoms of your problem.  For example, your problem might be causing difficulty at work and at home.

 

Here are some things you can do to make your first session as successful as possible.

 

Be open.  Therapists are trained to ask the right questions, but they are not mind readers.  The therapist can do their job more effectively if you answer the questions openly and honestly.

 

Sometimes it can be difficult to really understand or clearly articulate what is bothering you.   Before you get to the session, think about how to describe “what’s wrong,” and your feelings about your problem.  One thing that can help sometimes is to write down the reasons you are seeking help.  Make a list and then read it out loud.  Hearing yourself say it a few times will help you describe things more clearly to the therapist.

 

Ask questions.  The more you understand the counseling experience or how counseling works, the more comfortable you will be.  Ask questions about the therapy process, and ask the therapist to repeat anything you do not understand.

 

Be open and honest about your feelings. A lot will be going through your head in this first session. Listen to your own reactions and feelings, and share them with the therapist.  You will both learn from these insights.

 

Be sure to go to your first session with realistic expectations.  Therapy is not a quick fix for your problem, rather it is a process. With some effort on your part and a strong relationship with your therapist, it can be a successful tool toward resolving problems.