As therapy is geared toward positive change, the first therapy session can be overwhelming, especially if you are starting therapy for the first time. As mental health professionals, the first therapy session can be one of the most important in the treatment process, as it is a chance to get to know our clients better and build trust, unconditional positive regard, and rapport for the relationship.
Anxiety towards therapy is normal. Therapy is a process of growth and change. It is important for one to feel prepared before the first therapy session to welcome this growth and change. However, feeling overwhelmed can be challenging and frighten individuals enough to re-think their decision.
Lessening Anxiety Before Therapy
Here are some helpful tips to lessen anxiety before your first therapy session:
- Set Aside 10 to 15 Minutes Before Your Session to Determine “Why” You are Seeking Therapy
The first therapy session will focus on the presenting problem at hand. Clients need to be able to set aside a moment to reflect on the presenting problems and be able to articulate them. Therapists understand that preparing to open up emotionally can cause stress, so this is a good strategy to prepare for the conversations that will occur in the first session.
- Set Goals
Take a moment to outline therapeutic goals of what you would like to achieve from therapy. These goals can be related to why you have sought therapy and what areas you would like to improve in.
It is a good idea to also prioritize your goals, as it will help pinpoint what is weighing you on the most and what to do about it. For example, if you lack interest in daily activities, take some time to reflect on why you are feeling this way and what can be done to increase interest.
- Schedule Your First Session at a Convenient Time
Schedule your first appointment on a day off or a time when you are not busy, especially if you have not been to therapy before. Sometimes, after an emotional therapy session, people may feel exhausted to go about their daily routine. It is important to take some time for self-care after therapy to reflect on the session and ground yourself. This can help lessen any anxiety or tiredness you may have felt after discussing some topics.
Also, it is best to schedule an appointment at a time where you are not in a public place to give yourself some privacy and to feel more comfortable. If you are at school or work, it is best to have your therapy session after school or work hours in a space without distractions.
- Be Open and Honest
Having openness and honesty about your thoughts and feelings in therapy will have a direct linear relationship to the amount of success you will have with therapy. The first session serves as an intake session at many therapy services. Be open to answering questions, expressing your thoughts, and allowing yourself to feel emotion.
It is okay to feel a bit of discomfort in the first session because of these emotions. Remember, therapy is a safe space with no judgment, and everything is completely confidential. This is most important as openness and honesty will help you achieve your goals in therapy.
- Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions
Prepare before your first session to ask questions. The first session is a chance for you and your therapist to get to know each other to help build rapport and empathy. Consider making a list of questions before your first session to help lessen anxiety.
There are no right or wrong questions and answers in the therapy room. Make a list of questions that will help you get to know your therapist and the therapeutic process. You are allowed to ask about your therapist’s professional experience, their theoretical approaches, billing, insurance, scheduling, etc.
- Go Easy on Yourself
Try to remember to congratulate yourself for taking this gigantic leap to improve your mental health and well-being. It is okay to feel nervous, scared, or anxious about your first session. Do not discount these positives and understand therapy is going to be an ongoing process that will help you deal with these negative emotions further.
Take a moment to self-reflect, take a few deep breaths, and practice some mindfulness exercises. Pat yourself on the back for scheduling your first therapy appointment. Feel excited, as the therapist will also be excited about your first therapy session!
Written By: Khadija Manzoor, LPC
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic on (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.