What happens at my first therapy session?

So you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and try therapy? Congratulations! That’s a significant first step to caring for yourself and your future. Speaking of first steps, it’s worthwhile understanding what happens in your first session.

The first session is a little different, and it’s normal to feel uncertain about what to expect. But, generally, you can expect:

  • To out some paperwork and answer questions about yourself. Then, you’ll meet your psychologist and sit in a safe, comfortable, therapeutic room with comfy chairs.
  • Your psychologist will start by reviewing some basics of the service agreement, including scheduling appointments, the cancellation policy, payments, how a mental health treatment plan works, and any additional consent forms that may need signing.
  • Your psychologist will explain the limits of confidentiality, which means they’ll inform you what information can and cannot be shared outside the therapy room.

Once we’ve finished discussing that, we’ll ask about you:

  • Your reason for coming and look at what’s happening for you right now, how you are already coping, and what help you already have.
  • We will also talk about your life and background and have you fill out some questionnaires to help with treatment planning.
  • We’ll listen attentively without judgement and ensure you feel safe and comfortable to explore your thoughts and feelings. To begin with, you may find some questions a little uncomfortable, but don’t worry – we’re just trying to get a sense of your situation and help you get to the root of the problem. If anything is too distressing, we will wait until you feel more comfortable.

Throughout the process, we welcome your questions about therapy. It works best if you are well-informed. If there is something we can do to make you more comfortable, please ask!
Sometimes it will take your psychologist more than one session to complete an overall assessment of your current difficulties and the best approach to treatment. We like to work collaboratively on a treatment plan; therefore, if you have ideas – please share them, as we want you involved.
A person may have all sorts of responses to a first session, so it’s important to ensure you take extra good care of yourself afterwards. It may help to write a few notes on what it was like, and if the session prompted any thoughts, feelings, or actions.

The first therapy session is like dipping your toes into the water. After that, you’ll understand what therapy is about and whether it feels like a good fit for you. Remember that therapy is a process, and building a strong therapeutic relationship with your psychologist takes time. So be patient, be honest, and most importantly, be kind to yourself.

Written by Jenna Axtens

Jenna is a Clinical Psychologist. Jenna enjoys connecting with clients across the lifespan with a range of concerns. Jenna has a special interest in Neurodiversity, Sleep Psychology and Transdiagnostic approaches to treatment.

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