This month is Mental Health Awareness month and you’ve probably seen more mental health-related content and maybe it has you interested in going to therapy for the first time. Accessing therapy for the first time can be intimidating, and I figured it might be helpful to create a guide as to what you can expect from the therapy experience. I will place a disclaimer on this guide to say that this is what you can expect from therapy with me. Each therapist is different and it is always important to find the right therapist for you.
When you first reach out to a therapist, whether it’s via phone or email, it may be helpful to let the therapist know a little bit about what you have been dealing with and why you are seeking out therapy. Now, this does not have to be a ton of information if you’re not comfortable sharing that just yet, but a little explainer such as anxiety, depression, etc. can be helpful for the therapist to know ahead of time what you might want to work on. If ultimately you don’t feel prepared to share that just yet, that’s fine, as therapists, we are used to operating with very little information when starting with a new client and gathering information as we go.
I tell this to all of my clients but always feel free to ask me or any other therapist questions about our expertise or approach to therapy, or really any other question you might have about the therapeutic process. These questions can be asked when making initial contact to determine if you want to make an appointment, in the first session, and throughout the therapeutic experience. Oftentimes people don’t feel comfortable questioning us because we are viewed as an authority or an expert, but in reality, you are the expert on your experience. It’s important for you to feel like you can question us if you feel like it is necessary. You also might not have any questions starting out because maybe you feel like you don’t know what to ask, that’s totally fine, but just know you can always ask as you work with your therapist. Ultimately, I encourage you to ask questions because it can help you determine if a therapist is a right fit for you.
So you’ve set up an appointment, and now you’re coming in for your first appointment. New clients are often nervous that I am going to make them talk about really heavy stuff in our first session. That is not how I operate if you aren’t ready to go there. In the first session, it’s more important for you to feel comfortable and so I spend a lot of that time getting to know about you and your life so you can feel more settled. Once you feel comfortable, we will hit the ground running working on what you want to address.
You also might be the client who wants to get started immediately and is comfortable opening up about your life on day one, that’s great too. I will go there with you and maybe spend less time asking about your daily life since you are prepared to dive in. Everyone’s comfort level is different and it is my job to adjust to where you are at and go at your pace. Do not feel pressured that you have to spill your guts on day one if you aren’t ready, there is time for that.
Two of my areas of expertise are anxiety and depression, and sometimes I will have clients who come in who have been struggling with these issues in pretty intense ways leading up to their appointment and they want to be able to leave our first session with tools to get symptom relief. I completely understand this, they want help and to stop feeling this way and so with clients like this, I will spend part of that first session going through psychoeducation. I explain what is happening in your brain and body and things you can do to alleviate your symptoms. I am the type of person who likes to know what is causing an issue and why, because that allows me to feel in control and empowered to solve my problems so I like to bring this into my therapy sessions for my clients. Ultimately, I incorporate psychoeducation into my work with all of my clients regardless of what they have going on because I have found it to be a valuable tool. We might touch on this in your first session or we might not, but it will be apart of our discussion at some point.
Ultimately, the big take away for you to know about working with me is that I am flexible and ready to go wherever you need us to go. I have no agenda or expectations about what we work on or discuss. Therapy is for you, it is not about me. We spend our time together as you see fit. I am direct in my approach so I will challenge you on things when appropriate but you are in charge of what we work on. Always know that no matter what therapist you see, it is important that you work with someone you feel comfortable with and it’s completely appropriate for you to reach out to and meet with several different therapists before you find the right one.
Hopefully, this intro to therapy was helpful to put your mind at ease, but if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to me. I am always available to walk you through this process, whether it’s with me or another therapist. Good luck on your therapy journey!