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  • Mary Katherine L

FAQ: How Should I Prepare for a First Session?

Anything new can be intimidating, including attending therapy. Knowing what to expect can help. Here are some answers to a few questions you might have:

What happens during a first session?

If you haven't already filled out paperwork, you'll likely do that either while you wait for the session to begin or during the first few minutes of the session. Otherwise, first sessions vary from therapist to therapist.

During my first session, I discuss confidentiality and its limits as well as certain policies. Then, I let my client lead the way. I encourage them to share as little or as much as they'd like. If my client needs further prompting, here are some of the questions I might ask:

  • How are you feeling about being here today?

  • Would you want to tell me a little bit about yourself and who you are?

  • Why you are seeking therapy?

  • What are your goals for therapy?

  • Have you attended therapy before? If so, what did you like or not like about that experience?

I also offer to answer any questions my client may have about therapy or about me (within reason!).

For me, the first session is about making sure my client is comfortable. It's about getting used to the routine of therapy and to each other.

How should I prepare for a first session?

No significant preparation is needed. If you want to prepare, think about your specific reasons for attending therapy as well as what goals you have. The more specific, the better. If you've been to therapy before, think about what you liked and didn't like, and don't be afraid to share that information with your therapist.

During the first session, how much should I share about myself, my past, or my reason for being at therapy?

Ultimately, it's up to you. You may want to share a lot, and that is great! You may be hesitant to share, and that's okay, too. Therapy will be uncomfortable at times (it has to be -- that's when we grow), but it's important that your first session is an experience that allows you to come back to therapy for a second session. That being the case, you may not want to push yourself too far beyond your limits of comfort during the first session.

I have a really important piece of information, but I don't know how I feel about telling my therapist about it. Do I have to tell them during the first session?

The short answer is no. For all intents and purposes, during that first session, you and your therapist are strangers! Of course you don't have to tell your therapist everything right away. That said, if it's something really important, or something that will influence the course of therapy, you might tell your therapist that you have something else to tell them, but you're not quite ready to share it yet. Your therapist will be developing some kind of a plan for therapy, and letting your therapist know that you have more to share will help them leave room for that.


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