Well Being

What To Expect Before Your First Therapy Session

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Before I walked into my first psychiatrist appointment, I felt like I was going to throw up. Unfamiliar situations are hard enough, but walking into a room where you’re supposed to, essentially, explain to someone that you’re sad and need assistance? It’s intimidating AF. Now that I’ve survived a few appointments, not only do I feel like I’m a happier human, but I also know that it was nowhere near as scary as I imagined it would be. Dealing with a mental illness — anything involving your mental health, really — can be really tough, and it’s hard to get the help you need. But if you’ve made that first appointment, you deserve some credit. Taking the first step is so important, and you’ve already done it!

It’s totally normal to be nervous before your first therapy session, and it’s even harder if you have no idea what to expect. Here are a few things that might happen during your first visit. Above all else, know that you should be proud of yourself for asking for the help you need to live your best, healthiest, happiest life. You deserve it.

Know there Will Be Tons Of Paperwork

Like any first doctor’s visit, you’re going to have to fill out a lot of stuff, mainly about your medical history, and sometimes even a few tests are involved where you list out your symptoms and check boxes next to statements that apply to you and how you’re feeling. If you don’t want to worry about that when you arrive at the office — with your driver’s license and insurance card, duh — check your office’s website; they might have paperwork online you can print out and fill out ahead of time.

Be Ready To Open Up — At Least A Little

Your first therapy session is mainly about your therapist getting to know you and finding out what brought you in, so be ready to talk about what your daily life is like and how you’ve been feeling lately. It can be really tough to open up to a total stranger, so it’s okay if you don’t get everything out in this first visit, but do try to be as honest and thorough as you can.

“The therapist will ask questions about your presenting concerns, as well as your history and background,” therapist Dr. Maria B.Cohen told Good Therapy. “Most likely, you’ll find yourself talking about your current symptoms or struggles, as well saying a bit about your relationships, your interests, your strengths, and your goals.”

You Should Come Prepared

Something that can help you get over the initial awkwardness of talking about yourself so much and that can help you get the most out of your therapy? If you come armed with exactly what you’d like to accomplish in your visits. “I always recommend people have something to talk about,” Dr. Jeannie Bertoli told Huffington Post. “Therapy is about you: You’re the boss, and people forget that. Our job is to guide people to where they want to go.”

Even though it seems like your therapist is leading the session, you are ultimately the one in charge. If there’s something, in particular, you feel like they should know right off the bat, don’t be afraid to let them know and start it from there.

The Therapist Will Probably Be Taking Notes

But that’s okay — that’s just how they keep track of what you’re saying and what they might want to touch upon later. And trust me, they’re not writing down jokes or things you’ve said that they think are weird. The great thing about therapy is that you get to let it all out without judgment, and chances are, your therapist has already seen and heard it all. Come on, there’s no way you’re the strangest person who’s ever reached out to this therapist seeking help.

“Notes taken during a session are usually fragments of data — a detail to touch on again later in the session, a reminder to ask about something next time you meet, meaning that was extrapolated by something mentioned that needs a closer look at,” therapist Dr. Aarti Gupta told Refinery 29. So when you see him/her scribbling, don’t freak out. Totally normal.

It’s Okay If You Don’t Hit It Off With Your Therapist

Not every therapist is going to work for you — kinda like dating, it might take a few tries before you find the one you want to stick with. If you get a bad vibe in your first session, don’t feel bad about finding another doctor that you might bond with better. This is about you, and you need to feel comfortable if you want to get what you need out of therapy. It sucks, but not every therapist is going to align with you and your views. Plus, therapists have so many different approaches to treatment, and one person’s preference might not be yours. It’s okay to realize that after the first visit and opt not to return. But do go see someone else.

Congratulations on taking this seriously awesome first step to being a happier you. Make sure you plan something fun to do afterward that you can look forward to, like a Starbucks trip or a fun outing with a friend to celebrate. Good luck at your appointment!