As a therapist, it is very common to hear clients reflect on their avoidance of therapy in the past because they worried about what being in therapy meant and what the therapeutic process looked like. Just like taking on new things, it is normal to have a certain level of anxiety as someone begins therapy for the first time. My goal of this blog is to help answer questions associated with what a first therapy session is like, as well as common concerns/questions about therapy.
In our first session, my main goal is to understand what is bringing you into therapy and what it is that you would like to get out of treatment. The information I gather in this session is an assessment of your life, from the symptoms you’re coming in with to you relationship to people and things in your life.
Some common questions/comments that is discussed in a first session:
– “Tell me a little about what is bringing you in?”
– “Have you ever felt this way before? If so, when?”
– “What kind of support do you have in your life?”
– “How has your sleep, appetite, and concentration been?”
– “Are you currently taking any medication? Or have any medical conditions?”
– “What would you like to get from treatment? (if you don’t know yet, that’s okay too)
This is not a complete list of questions but this will help identify potential follow up questions that may be asked. The idea behind this question is to help get a clear picture of who you are, how I can help.
Next, I’ll typically ask if you have any questions for me or about the therapy process. Below are the three most common questions from someone who is new to therapy:
-“Do you think I’m sick or crazy?”- Absolutely not! You are a human, who is having very human experience. As a culture we tend to view therapy as only for someone “with problems,” but therapy is truly for anyone.
– “Can you just tell me what to do?”- As helpers, our job is to help promote self-determination in assisting you in finding your own answer! Although this may be frustrating to hear, ultimately you are the expert on yourself, not us.
– This next one is typically unspoken as the therapeutic relationship deepens, but frequently people express fear associated with judgment from the therapist themselves. The truth is typically we are judging ourselves and our ability to help more than we are judging you (we are human too).Furthermore, for most helpers I think it’s much more common to focus on our client’s resilience, individuality, and bravery to do this sometimes difficult work in therapy.
Finally, when your first session is complete you will have to the opportunity to make another appointment. The idea is that over time you will gain comfortability with your therapist. In doing so, you may share more deeply and develop a more trusting relationship. Therapists recognize each person’s
pace in this process may be different. Taking steps to starting therapy can be scary or intimidating but hopefully this post can help ease those fears enough for you to take the first step in getting support!
-Katie Karner, LCPC