What is a First Therapy Session Like?
By Peggy Carstensen, LCPC, ATR
The first session of therapy is not identical for anyone, but every clinician has a general routine, spiel and overall vibe they want to achieve. Here are a few shared goals among most therapists no matter their age, gender, race, area of expertise, or personality:
We want you to feel comfortable. This is your time, your money, and your life. We want you to feel like you can be your honest, authentic self - and we want that to happen as soon as possible. If there are specific things we can do to make you feel more at ease, please share. We are ready for your toughest conversations and realizations. We are also ready to wait as long as needed for you to feel prepared to go there.
We love questions. Both ways. We naturally ask a lot of them so we can truly get to know you, and we love being able to answer any of your questions about the therapy process. Understanding what you’ve signed up for is part of what helps you keep showing up and investing in yourself. Please don’t be afraid to ask us about therapy, additional referrals, and about our professional identity to ensure the therapeutic relationship will be a good fit.
Your story is the most important story. You have our undivided attention. We want to understand the path that brought you to this moment. We also want you to know yourself on a deeper level and to love the main character in the story of your life (that’s you). First therapy sessions are primarily about sharing an overview so we can determine where and how to get started helping.
Goals. Depending on how the conversation flows, it is very likely during the first appointment you will already start to identify your general hopes and goals for your life and for our time together. These may change, evolve or get more detailed as we work together. Our job is not to tell you how to live or what to do, so we want to hear from you what you want to see happening. I typically provide my clients with a notebook or sketchbook that first meeting, and the first task given between sessions is to take some time to write/draw and reflect on what they want for themselves.
Listen to your gut. People don’t always mesh. That’s a fact. Sometimes there is something about the therapist sitting across from you that reminds you of someone. Or maybe they do or say something that doesn’t jive in a way that’s impossible to look past. If you don’t believe you will ever be able to open up to a therapist, please know that we still want to help you. The clinician an office over or a referral we can offer could change your life. Don’t give up on getting support because of one session or one person. Keep looking for the prov