Getting ready for your first counseling session can be nerve-wracking whether you’ve tried therapy before or you’re starting with a new counselor. What will your counselor be like? What kinds of questions will they ask? How should you prepare? Not knowing what to expect can be intimidating and ultimately deter some people from pursuing counseling.
While every therapist is different in their approach, style and specialization, here are a few common FAQs about preparing for your first counseling session:
Q: How should I prepare for my first counseling session?
A: Go in with an open mind, remember that it might take a few sessions to feel comfortable with your therapist and the idea of therapy if you’ve never been before. The best way to get the most from therapy is to be honest with yourself and your counselor about your thoughts and feelings, and to answer questions truthfully so that you can be evaluated accurately and get the most appropriate treatment plan in motion.
Q: What should I expect to happen in my first session?
A: Every therapist is different in their approach. Many will ask you questions about your health, life, family, etc. to get an idea of who you are and what you’re struggling with. If you’re nervous, it’s okay to say so! You can even schedule a call before your initial appointment to ask any questions and express any hesitations you may have so your counselor can tailor your sessions to make you feel most secure and comfortable.
Q: Who will know what I’m talking about in therapy?
A: With very few exceptions, everything that you tell your counselor is confidential. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) your therapist is required by law to protect your privacy unless you present a physical threat to yourself or others or if they receive a court order. Additionally, your therapist is required to report ongoing domestic violence or abuse of children, elders or people with disabilities.
Q: Will me therapist judge me if I get emotional during a session?
A: It’s okay to cry! Therapy is a safe, judgement-free space for you to process trauma, deal with stress and more, and your therapist is trained to help you work through it, tears and all. One of the benefits of letting yourself cry or show emotion in therapy is that your counselor can help you process your emotions. This is also an important part of being honest with your therapist because suppressing an emotional response can make it more challenging to work through the source of those emotions.
Q: What if I don’t like my therapist?
A: If you ultimately decide that your therapist isn’t a good fit, find a new one! It’s important to have a good connection with your therapist in order to get the most out of your sessions. Some people want a “tough love” therapist, while others prefer a counselor with a gentler demeanor. There is no “better” type of therapist, just the one that’s right for you. You can ask your primary care physician for a referral, or you can use sites like zocdoc.com to find mental healthcare professionals in your area. Additionally, you can use the resources on the Inpathy website to learn about the different types of providers available to you. Many counselors have different areas of specialization, which can help you to select a good match for the type of support you need.