What Should I Expect In My First Therapy Session?

What Should I Expect In My First Therapy Session?

What Should I Expect In My First Therapy Session?

Maybe you’ve never been to therapy before. Or perhaps you’ve never seen the type of therapist that you’re about to see. It’s normal to find yourself wondering what to expect. What happens in a first therapy session? Of course, each therapist and each client is different, so things can unfold in many different ways. However, we asked a few of our associate therapists to share what they would like a client to know to expect in a first therapy session. Here are their responses.

Typically, the first session is for the therapist to hear what is bringing you, the client, to seek out therapy.

Somatic therapist Celeste Cruz says,

I like to begin by asking my client what has brought them to seek out therapy. I ask them to share a little history of what got them to this point. Additionally, I  like to know about client goals – what they would like to get from their time in therapy.

I talk about logistics of scheduling, cancellation policies, what they can expect from me and how I like to conduct our time. I like to know what they want or need from me to begin our relationship in a way that feels supportive.

I leave time for any questions they may have for me personally and professionally that had not been covered in the intake call. These questions could range from what is the frame or lens I work with, too any curiosities they may have about my experience with what they are bringing to me.

I like to be open with my clients and answer as many questions as I can while holding in my awareness that I am essentially a stranger they are sharing perhaps some vulnerable information with and we are building a really important relationship. Once all these things are covered, it has been my experience that the first session’s time has come to an end.

What Should I Expect In My First Therapy Session?

It’s A Starting Point For Understanding

Building upon what Celeste Cruz said, therapist Mark Resch says:

My first session with you as a new client is our first opportunity to work together one-on-one. I’ll begin that session with a semi-structured interview and ask you to use your own words to describe what brings you to therapy and to give you the chance to tell me a bit more about yourself. I’ll ask some questions about your history, your childhood, and your family. We’ll talk about school and work, about important romantic and platonic relationships. We’ll talk about physical, sexual, and emotional safety and any other risks you may face. I’ll ask some questions about how you see and experience the world.

I’m not a doctor, but I’ll ask about your general physical health because many health conditions manifest with symptoms that affect mental health, and I would want to make sure that you have any of those checked out.

We’ll take time at the end of this session to answer any questions you might have. With this kind of first session, you’ll have a good idea about how I will interact with you, I’ll have gotten to know you better, and we’ll be ready to continue working together  in our next session.

What Should I Expect In My First Therapy Session?

Instilling Hope

Often you can feel a bit hopeless as you begin therapy. If a first session can instill a little bit of hope in you, then it gives you something to take away beyond just the basic exchange of information.

Therapist Kaye Reeves says of the first session:

After making sure that ethical requirements (informed consent, etc.) are satisfied, I try to get a deeper understanding of the client’s goals and reasons for seeking therapy, while starting to build the therapeutic alliance. I aim to instill hope and give the client something of what they came for in our first meeting, trusting that we’ll collect the necessary background information within the first several sessions, rather than consuming the entire initial hour with a standardized intake interview.

A Few More Things To Expect in a First Visit

  • You might fill out client forms. Sometimes you fill these out in advance of the first visit so that time isn’t spent on this during your session.
  • You might go over policies specific to the type of therapy you’re doing. For example, the Secrets Policy for couples therapy.
  • Some therapists will begin working on a treatment plan with you. Some therapists will assess you for a potential diagnosis. This may or may not happen in your first session (or at all, depending on the type of therapy.)
  • Oftentimes, the therapist may recap what you’ve gone over at the end of the session.
  • You might decide at this time whether or not you want to continue sessions with this therapist.
  • If you do plan to continue sessions, your therapist might assign homework. This depends on the therapy type as well as what you and the therapist decide together.

Further Reading

Ready to start a first session with a therapist? Contact us today!