You’ve made the decision to go to therapy, but you’re not sure what to expect. This is totally reasonable (and normal!) and whether you’ve been to therapy before or this if your first time, it’s a courageous and vulnerable step to make. Check out the 4 questions to ask yourself when beginning therapy to better understand what the beginning stages of therapy will look like.
- Why am I seeking out therapy NOW?
When we go through life, we encounter challenges pretty often. So, what is it about this present moment and perhaps this particular challenge that’s leading you to therapy? If you’ve been experiencing something for an extended period (i.e. depression or anxiety), what is it about this point in time that’s led you to seek out help? Or, perhaps you’ve just experienced a sudden change in your life: think about the transition in your life that’s brought you to this moment. In the first few sessions, your therapist is going to be getting to know you and the challenges you may be facing. During that time, you’ll process together, but you can begin to do so in preparation for your first session.
- What am I looking for from my therapist?
It’s helpful in the first few sessions of therapy to let your therapist know what you’re looking for from them. Maybe that’s patience, to be challenged, to be given tasks or homework. Whatever your requests may be, your therapist will use this as information in your sessions together to be the support you’re looking for. Typically, I’ll ask new clients if they’ve been to therapy before and ask them what worked for them at that time and also what maybe didn’t work. Give yourself some time to reflect on your past experience so when you get to that first session you can discuss this with your therapist.
- How will I work this into my schedule?
The year 2020 brought us many changes in this world and one of the more fortunate changes was a broadened access to therapy. Plenty of therapists continue to work via TeleHealth, which is a lot more convenient for some people. Think about your own schedule and if attending in-person sessions are feasible for you right now or if working virtually (Pre-work? Lunch?) will fit better with your current lifestyle or situation. In my experience, neither option leaves you at a disadvantage in any way. Both are suitable ways of having productive and meaningful sessions with my clients.
- What are my goals?
Your immediate answer might relate back to question one and that’s okay (i.e. I want to manage my anxiety better or I want to feel more motivated). Or, maybe this is harder for you to figure out. You don’t have to have a set of concrete goals before your first therapy session and you’ll talk about this with your therapist but not necessarily right away. I usually finalize goals with my clients around the third session, but goals may be redirected and change over time, too.
It’s not easy to set aside time and prioritize your mental wellbeing and it can be challenging to continue to put in the work once you do. Note that you’ve taken a great first step in seeking help from a professional and that’s something significant in itself.