As beneficial and rewarding as therapy is, the first session can be a little nerve-wracking, especially if you’ve never been to therapy before. Something many people don’t think about is preparing for a therapy session so they can calm their nerves ahead of time and go in feeling prepared and confident.
Taking the time to prepare for therapy and vulnerable conversations with a therapist can reduce anxiety, opening you up to further care and growth.
Whether this is going to be your first session or the first with a new therapist, below are some tips on how to prepare for therapy sessions that can help ease your nerves.
How to Prepare for a Therapy Session
Once you’ve found a therapist to meet with, you’ve started your journey to self-improvement, but this can be scary. Therapy sessions require a certain level of vulnerability and openness, and it can be hard to talk about something as serious as mental illness with someone you’ve never met.
However, it’s important to remember that therapists are trained and experienced in speaking to others about their mental health. Their goal is to help you feel better and get you to a place where you can enjoy your life without feeling overwhelmed by your mental health.
With that said, below are some tips on how to prepare for therapy sessions so you can get the most out of your treatment.
Ask for a Phone Consultation
If you hate talking on the phone, or if the idea of talking to someone over the phone you’ve never met in person causes anxiety, then skip this step. Having a phone consultation before you begin therapy is not a requirement, but it does allow you to speak with the therapist before committing to more therapy sessions.
Many therapists expect you to want a brief phone consultation because they understand the importance of the therapist-client relationship and want you to feel as comfortable as possible. You might even have a few questions you can ask them, such as:
- How do you approach helping people?
- Have you worked with people who have concerns like mine?
- Do you make treatment plans? If so, will I be involved in creating and monitoring mine?
- What can I expect during sessions?
- What do you expect out of me?
A phone consultation is a big step in preparing for your first therapy session as it can remove some of the mystery from the vague and often intimidating idea of therapy.
Schedule Your First Session at a Convenient Time
If you’ve never been to therapy before, you don’t know how you’re going to feel afterward. Some people feel fine enough to go back to work or school after a therapy session, while others may need some time to process what they discussed.
Especially if this is your first session, schedule it on a day off or at a time when you don’t have anything pressing to attend to after. Try to avoid making any definitive plans around the session, as well, just in case you’re feeling overwhelmed or want alone time after.
Give Yourself Time Before the Session
It’s a good idea to schedule some time for yourself before the session to prepare, especially if you’re nervous. Turn your cellphone off and get away from work.
You can even eat something or take the time to do something relaxing, such as reading a good book or watching tv. It’s natural to feel nervous before therapy, but if you relax, you’ll feel less intimidated about the process and more prepared to open up.
Have Realistic Expectations
Therapy is great, and it can be extremely beneficial, but it’s not a magical cure-all. It requires a certain amount of effort. If you expect to leave completely cured after your first counseling session, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
Make sure your goals are manageable and realistic. Consider the severity of the state of your mental health, so you’re prepared to remain patient with yourself and your therapist.
Additionally, remember that it may take a few weeks to a few years to reach your goals and get to a comfortable place mentally.
Therapists are only human, and they’re not going to have all of the answers to your questions. Therapy will require work from both parties, and sessions won’t be as simple and condensed as they are in movies.
Ask yourself, “What do I want to get out of this?” While there’s no right or wrong reason for getting counseling, it can help to understand what brought you to therapy and how you hope to leave.
If you’ve been to therapy before, consider what you did and didn’t like about other therapists you worked with. Therapy is most effective when it’s introspective, meaning it’s designed to help you pinpoint the heart of your mental illness to devise the best plan for treating it.
While therapy can help you pinpoint this and cope with it properly, it can help to try and think about what’s causing certain thoughts and feelings. For instance, if you’ve been feeling unmotivated and unhappy lately, consider why you’re feeling that way.
This form of preparation can get you in the mindset of problem-solving and discussing your thoughts and emotions to better understand yourself.
You’re not going to a job interview or work, so there’s no pressure to dress up – unless that makes you feel more comfortable or you simply like it. Dressing in comfortable clothes will help you feel more relaxed and less stiff.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
You can talk as much or as little as you want during your session. However, if you don’t feel comfortable answering something or talking about something, express it. Your therapist will never force you to talk about something if you’re not ready.
There are no right or wrong questions to ask, and even if the therapist doesn’t have all the answers, they can guide you to them - that’s what they’re there for! There’s also no shame in asking questions about billing, scheduling, or insurance.
In fact, these are great questions for the phone consultation to ensure that this is an affordable and long-term option for you, should you need it. Make a list of these questions ahead of time and ask them at the start of the session or ask the therapist if you can have time to ask these questions at the end.
Have a Journal Dedicated to Your Therapy Sessions
Having a journal dedicated to writing down what you discussed in therapy that day is a great way to process everything. Having entries about every session also allows you to read back on how you felt days, months, or even years before and see how much you’ve grown and areas where you might need more guidance.
Be Open and Honest
As daunting and intimidating as it may seem, being open and honest about your thoughts, feelings, and struggles is crucial if you want to get the most out of your therapy sessions. As educated and experienced as your therapist may be, they can’t read your mind, so you have to go into therapy with transparency.
Be Patient With Yourself
It’s normal to feel nervous or anxious about therapy, especially if it’s your first session. A major aspect of navigating how to prepare for therapy sessions is being patient with yourself.
Try not to worry about what to say or how to act and just congratulate yourself on the fact that you took this huge step towards bettering yourself. You’re allowed to feel scared, overwhelmed, nervous, and excited all at the same time.
Your First Therapist Might Not Be Your Last
It’s best to go to several therapy sessions with a therapist before committing to long-term treatment with them. However, if you aren’t liking your therapist or something seems off, then it’s okay to find a new one.
Don’t feel pressured to stick with the first therapist you meet. This isn’t about what’s working for them. It’s about what’s working for you.
Any good therapist will encourage you to find one that makes you feel heard, guided, and challenged to grow, so don’t feel bad if you want to switch after a few sessions.
Where to Get Mental Health Therapy
If you’re struggling with your mental health and want to take that step towards getting better, our Florida mental health rehab is here to help. Our facility offers Boca Raton depression treatment as well as care for disorders like anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and others.
Through the use of therapy methods like cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) and solution-focused brief therapy, we help clients understand the thoughts and behaviors linked to their disorders and how to best cope with them. With our help, you can improve your mental health and get the most out of life.