Starting therapy can be a transformative experience for many. From finding the right therapist to setting the stage for a successful session, preparing for your first session might feel daunting. Understanding how to prepare for a therapy session is crucial for maximizing its benefits.
Whether you’re contemplating an initial consultation, pondering your goals, or simply curious about the process, this guide is designed to help you navigate these waters with ease. Let’s explore the steps to take to ensure you are well-prepared for this important journey towards self-discovery and healing.
Here is a comprehensive look at what to consider when preparing for your first therapy session:
Considering setting up an initial consultation phone call. If you are new to therapy or would like to chat with a few potential therapists before committing to a first session, a consultation phone call may be helpful. The consultation can provide you with a feel of the therapist’s approach, their experience working with other clients with similar issues, and the opportunity to ask any questions that you have about the way they practice. Remember that there are no silly questions!
If it doesn’t feel like the right fit that’s okay too. The therapist may be able to offer referral information or guide you to other helpful resources. The conversation about client-therapist fit can also happen at any time throughout the therapy process.
Set aside some time to reflect on your reasons for seeking therapy at this time. For some, it is helpful to journal or write down a few points to share with the therapist.
You can ask yourself:
- What are my goals for therapy?
- What topics do I want to focus on?
- Do I have a primary concern or problem to prioritize?
- What are the changes I want to see happen in my life?
- Do I want to focus on my past/childhood, present life, thoughts about the future, or a combination?
Remember that it is okay if you have a difficult time putting your goals or your “why” for therapy into words right now. Your therapist can help you to explore these questions together in a safe, open, and non-judgemental space.
It may be helpful to think about how therapy can be most effective or helpful for you. Consider asking yourself the following:
- Is there anything I want my therapist to know about me right from the start?
- Is there a structure, exercise, or process that I want to see (or don’t want to see) in our sessions?
For example, some clients have shared that having homework exercises or tools to practice between sessions is important. Others have shared their interest (or disinterest) in experiential exercises during sessions, such as a guided mindfulness practice.
If it feels right for you, you may wish to share your decision to start therapy with a close person in your life. They may be able to offer you encouragement and additional support or insight.
Check to see if there are any forms you need to complete before your first appointment, such as an intake form and consent form. If you have any questions about any items in the paperwork, you can bring these to your therapist during your appointment.
On The Day of Your First Session
If your session is taking place virtually, make sure your devices are charged and you have a strong and private internet connection. Keep in mind that your therapist may call or email you in the case of any technical difficulties before or during a session.
Take some time to create a comfortable, quiet, and private space. For virtual therapy sessions, you can make your space your own. Some clients like to dim their lighting, light a candle, have a cup of your favourite tea, and keep a journal, tissue box, or fidget tool nearby. You may also want to set up a white noise machine (or use an ad-free Youtube video) to maintain privacy in a shared home.
Give yourself some space and time before and after sessions if that is possible. This might look like sitting in a quiet space for 5-10 minutes and simply noticing your feet on the floor and your back against the chair. Some people like to build in a walk after their appointment to process their thoughts and feelings before transitioning to the next activity. Try to avoid scheduling your appointments on your busiest day where making time for yourself around therapy becomes more difficult.
Be gentle and compassionate with yourself and reflect on what you need after a therapy session (e.g. being alone, a hot bath, going to a workout class, browsing a book store, seeing friends, watching a favourite movie, journaling, etc.).
Remember that you can show up “as you are” to therapy. If you are feeling nervous or anxious, that is common and okay. Your therapist will do their best to help you feel comfortable and meet you where you are that day. Therapy can sometimes feel uncomfortable, as it involves looking inward and being vulnerable to some degree. Your therapist will be there to help you navigate this process.
Embracing the Therapy Process
Preparing for a therapy session is more than just a logistical step; it’s an integral part of your journey towards mental well-being. By setting the right expectations, creating a conducive environment, and being open to the process, you can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your therapy sessions.
Remember, therapy is a path of exploration and growth, and how you prepare for it can profoundly impact your experience. Trust in the process, be kind to yourself, and embrace the journey with open-mindedness. Your commitment to self-care and personal growth starts here, and every step you take is a step closer to a more fulfilled, balanced life.
If you are living in Ontario our experienced licensed therapists offer personalized online therapy. Take the first step towards emotional well-being and mental health. Book your free initial consultation now and start your path to healing.