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Your First Therapy Session

Going to see a therapist is a big decision. A lot of people feel apprehensive because they don’t know what going to therapy is like. Let’s break down what happens in your counseling appointment:

Your first session will be a bit different than your other sessions. It can feel like a game of 20 questions, or even an interview (but no wrong answers!). Your first session is an opportunity for your therapist to get to know you and vice versa.

One thing that will be covered in the first session is called “informed consent”, which is about your right to know about what to expect in treatment, your right to confidentiality and privacy, and exceptions to those rules. It’s an opportunity for you to have a say in your treatment and to ask questions from the very start. Informed consent is a part of the first session and it’s included in paperwork, but it should be an ongoing process throughout counseling, as well

We cover what to expect in your first therapy session in this podcast episode:

What to expect from your therapy intake session

For the majority of your first session, your therapist will ask you for general information about you and your life. This will include questions about your history, your family, your relationships, and your goals for counseling. You should feel that the counselor is prioritizing you rather than telling you what their plans are for your life.

Honesty is important during your therapy sessions, starting from the intake. Your therapist is trying to paint a picture of who you are and what you may be struggling with, and the only way they can do that is if they’re given accurate information. I always tell clients that counseling is a place where it’s okay to get it wrong and to try again. You might take your best guess at something one week and come back and realize that something different is true. That’s completely fine. Your counselor should not pressure you to share more than you’re comfortable with and should receive the information you share without judgement.

Seeing a therapist for the first time

Some of us can feel pressure to get “everything out all at once”. Don’t! Therapy takes time. If you’re being honest, know that you’ll work through your issues in due time. For now, say what feels important. Focus on that. There’s no wrong place to start.

Your counselor should let you know that they are human, that you’re the expert in your own life, and that they might get things wrong sometimes. They should encourage you to speak up when this happens and be open to your feedback. It doesn’t help anyone for your counselor to work with you based on a false assumption.

Your first therapy session should pave the way for the road ahead. It’s important to be open, honest, and upfront, even if it’s tough. Your therapist is a trained professional who helps people work through their issues without judgement. If your therapist makes you feel safe and heard, give them an opportunity to do what they do best by sticking with it.

By going to your first session, you’ve accomplished the hardest part of therapy – taking your first step. Congratulations!

Charlotte, NC residents:

If you’re thinking about starting therapy, click here to schedule a free 15-minute consultation!

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