The first time will always feel a little bit awkward.
Starting therapy can be both exciting and intimidating, but showing up to your first counselling session unprepared will likely lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety. Do your research, reflect, and prepare. And also, try to relax!
What will you talk about during your first session?
Are you even sure if you want to speak to someone — and will you speak to them in-person or remotely? What if you know that you want to speak to someone, but don’t know where to start? And how will you find the right therapist for you?
We’ve interviewed therapists, counselors, and their clients, to help prepare you for your first therapy session. Here are their tips to make sure that you make the most of your first session.
Tip 1: Do your research
To make the most of your first session, try to clear logistical and basic questions with your therapist before arriving for the session. If they're not available for an initial inquiry, make sure to re-read the therapist's profile, personal website, and by doing a Google search on their name.
Tip 2: Think about what you want to get out of therapy
Do you want to be more mindful? Improve your work/life balance or leave work-related stress at the office? Deal with a past trauma? Understand your sexual orientation or want help "coming out"? Or perhaps be armed with a new way of processing your emotions and being less reactive?
The therapist will likely ask you what your goals for therapy are (or simply “why are you here”), so a bit of preparation and reflection will go a long way to making you feel comfortable in your first session. The answer to this question will help the counselor think through what sort of therapy techniques could work for you, and help them understand if their skillset and experience can help you reach your goals.
Tip 3: Be prepared and be flexible
Each therapist will have a different style and way of conducting their introductory session. Your conversation may flow naturally and feel more like a discussion, or they may take you through a formal set of questions that feels more like an interview. Share whatever details you are comfortable with sharing, and be open with giving your therapist feedback on what sort of communication style or topics you’re ready to work through.
Tip 4: Tell the therapist what drew you to them
Were they recommended to you by a friend, or did something in their professional history or approach to therapy stick out to you? Or did you really enjoy a quote or poem that they included in their online profile or a photo that they posted on their social media account? Opening up about what interested you in this therapist will help them understand your drivers and what's important to you.
Tip 5: Get an understanding of the therapist’s approach
An important part of the first session is in expectation setting with your therapist. You should ask about their approach to therapy, what sorts of therapy sessions they offer (e.g., 50 minute or 90 minute sessions) and the types of therapy techniques that they are trained and experienced in.
Tip 6: It’s normal to feel some discomfort — work through it
You’re embarking on an inward journey, and potentially opening up to a stranger more than you’ve shared with anyone else in your life. Sharing can be absolutely terrifying for some people. Be aware that some discomfort associated with vulnerability is normal.
Tip 7: Be aware that not every therapist will be right for you
Therapy is deeply personal and not everyone’s style will work for you. Don’t judge too quickly, but do pay attention as to how you feel throughout the session. In general, the ideal therapy match will be with someone that makes you feel respected, accepted unconditionally, and safe.
Did you know that many therapists offer a free, obligation-free inquiry session?
Unlike medical doctors, many wellness professionals offer free initial sessions because the treatment with them can be more personal, sensitive, and lengthy. If you’re looking to consult with a provider on RingMD, check to see if they offer a free session in the “packages” section of their profile or send them a direct message through the chat function on the platform.
If you're thinking "I need a therapist near me" but don't know where to start, try the RingMD therapist directory with a click of the button below. We will help you find the right therapist for YOU!