6 Ways You Can Prepare for Your First Therapy Session
You’ve done the work. You’ve found the therapist you think will be right for you. You’ve booked the appointment, made sure insurance will cover your costs (or that your out-of-pocket costs will be within your budget). Now it’s time to get ready for your first therapy session.
It’s normal to feel nervous about going to therapy for the first time. One of the best ways to manage those jitters is to prepare. Lots of people can feel flustered if they walk into an appointment without doing anything to prepare at all. Your mind might go blank, or you might forget key details.
Doing some forethought and preparation can go a long way in helping you make the most of your appointment, explain what you need from therapy, and help you and your therapist get to know each other.
Reflect On the Key Factors Impacting Your Mental Health (Good and Bad)
This can include:
- Upbringing/early life experiences
- Past trauma or difficult experiences
- Mental and physical health history
- Your current lifestyle
- Current coping mechanisms
- Key relationships in your life and your support network
- Any other key things you want your provider to know about you right off the bat
Identify the Main Topics You Want to Cover in Therapy
For most people, there’s a specific reason that makes them want to seek out therapy. There may be several topics you want to cover or just one main thing you want to focus on.
Prepare a List of All Your Medications
This includes over-the-counter drugs, supplements, and prescriptions you take for your physical and mental health. Jot down your frequency and dosage as well. These medications may be relevant to your mental health or to your therapist’s recommendations.
Identify What Questions You Have for Your Therapist
The first appointment is a chance for you to get to know your therapist, too! It’s a chance to see if you’re comfortable confiding in them. This can include questions about privacy, confidentiality, scheduling, or anything else you feel you need to know in order to feel safe and comfortable in therapy.
Keep in mind your therapist will likely not give you a ton of information about their personal life. Some therapists choose not to disclose any personal information, while some have a little more give-and-take. Remember, therapy is about you, so don’t be offended or put off if they set boundaries in this area.
Get to the Appointment Early
You don’t want to be in a rush or frazzled during your appointment. If you’re seeing your therapist in person, give yourself a few extra minutes to find parking or navigate the building the office is in. If your appointment is online, you may have to register for a patient portal to keep your video call secure.
Most importantly, giving yourself a few minutes to relax before the appointment starts can help you feel calmer and more centered, ready to hit it off with your therapist and help them get to know you.
Clear Some Time After Your Appointment
Try not to schedule any important engagements right after your appointment. If you can, give yourself some quiet time to relax afterward. Take a walk, grab a cup of coffee, get a snack, or do anything you normally do to decompress. Therapy can be emotionally draining and talking to a stranger about your personal life (and, potentially, trauma) can leave you feeling vulnerable. Be gentle with yourself.
It's normal to feel nervous about your first therapy session, but try to stay open-minded about your new therapist. You chose them for a reason! But if something feels off, trust your gut. Finding a therapist is as much about personality fit as it is about credentials and accomplishments.