Initiating therapy can be quite distressing and anxiety provoking. Typically, people make many attempts on their own to address their problems prior to seeking out therapy. Here are a few things you can do in order to manage the first session.
1. Request contact from a chosen therapist prior to the 1st session. This can give you a sense of who the therapist is, and what to expect when you meet them.
2. Read about your chosen therapist online. Most therapists have websites and other social media descriptions. This can help you better anticipate who your therapist is, and what their personality might be like before the first session.
3. Use GPS driving directions in order to reduce anxiety about finding your therapists office for the first visit. No need to add stress or anxiety to what you are already feeling.
4. Arrive 15 minutes early in order to complete paperwork, and put yourself in a mental and emotional state to begin therapy. Feeling rushed, or spending time during your first session filling out paperwork typically conflicts with a clients expectations for seeking understanding and relief in the first session.
5. Ask questions. Your therapist is an expert at asking you questions, and as such, they are fully aware, and expecting that you have questions for them. While all therapists have boundaries regarding their personal life, they also understand that the "self of the therapist" is a vital part of successful therapy, and as such, they should be able to provide you with answers to your questions regarding who they are, their approach to therapy, the theories they use, their qualifications to conduct therapy, and how they explain therapeutic change.
6. Therapy is a process, so do not expect that all of your problems will be resolved in a single session. A successful first session typically includes reviewing intake paperwork, introductions of the therapist and client(s), exploring presenting problems, and considering possible diagnostic criteria. You should leave the first session with a basic understanding of who your therapist is, what you are there to work on, and a hopefulness that your therapist can assist you.
I hope these simple ideas make it easier for you to approach your 1st session in therapy.
Anthony T. Alonzo, DMFT, LMFT, CFLE