5 Tips to Prepare for Your First Therapy Appointment
You wipe your sweaty palms against your shirt as you look at the time. You've researched and talked to different therapists, and finally settled on a therapist. You don’t know how the session will go. The ball of nerves in your stomach has felt heavy all day. You told a few people you had finally scheduled a therapy session. They told you it will go great, but what if it doesn’t? What if the therapist isn’t a good fit? What if you say the wrong thing? What if your reason for coming to therapy is something that can’t be fixed?
The first therapy appointment can be anxiety-inducing. Especially if you’ve never done therapy before. Here are 5 tips to prepare for your first appointment.
Know what you’re coming to therapy for
Maybe you’re coming to therapy because someone told you they felt you needed to go. Maybe you’re coming because life has been difficult and you feel therapy can help. Whatever your reason for coming to therapy it’s important to know it so you can voice it to your therapist. It will be one of the first questions we ask.
If you have specific goals, let us know. If you don’t have any goals, that is okay. We will work with you to figure out what those goals could be.
Have a list of medications and supplements you use
Sometimes medications can affect your mental health. Your therapist will likely ask if you are taking any medication or supplements. We can collaborate with you and your prescribing doctor to determine if a certain medication needs to be adjusted. Sometimes you need to be switched to a different medication.
Although your therapist will ask a lot of questions in the first appointment, you can bring your own questions. I’ve been asked about my style of therapy, some personal questions (which is up to the therapist to answer or not to maintain professionalism), and my experience with working with their specific problem.
Asking questions can help when deciding if the therapist will be a good fit for you.
Go With Your Gut
Assess how you feel during and after the session. Did you feel comfortable with the therapist? Were you able to be open and honest with them? Remember, this is YOUR therapy session. It is important that you feel comfortable with the therapist you have. But, sometimes it can take a few sessions before you feel more comfortable. Give yourself the time to become more comfortable.
Therapists understand we will not be a good fit for everyone. If you decide the therapist isn’t a good fit you can let them know. I’ll speak for myself when I say I prefer you tell me rather than ghosting me. It allows me to provide referrals in your search for a new therapist. It also allows you to communicate your needs so you know what to look for with your next therapist.
Leave Some Time for Yourself Before and After the Session
If you’re feeling nervous, give yourself time to prepare before the session. Preparing and gathering your questions and list of medications/supplements can help ease some of your anxiety. It also allows you to get comfortable and make sure you either arrive on time if it is in-person, or if your technology is working if it is virtual.
Leaving some time after the session allows you to prepare for whatever you need to do next. It is important to do this for every session, but if you set the habit in the first session it will become easier to do in your next sessions. It’s hard to go right back into work after crying and feeling vulnerable. Give yourself that time to reset before going to your next task.
Feeling nervous before your first therapy appointment is normal. There will always be nerves whenever we encounter someone or something new. Using these tips can help ease some of the nervousness you feel.
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