Going to therapy can be nerve-wracking, so it’s important to come prepared and be open about what to expect. Here are some helpful tips on what to consider before your first session.
It’s okay to be nervous for your first therapy session. In fact, just thinking about going to therapy can be scary too, and that’s completely understandable. Many people believe that going to therapy and counseling can serve as an acknowledgement that they need help, or it could mean that there is something wrong. This is definitely not true!
It is important to realize that despite the stigma surrounding therapy, there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. Going to therapy doesn’t mean you are too weak to solve your own problems. It means acknowledging the fact that no man is an island, and that sometimes we need the help of others. We cannot survive without other people, like how fruits cannot grow on trees without help from the sun, and how flowers cannot blossom without help from the bees. In the same way, we would not be able to live our lives to the fullest without getting the help that we need to grow.
With that said, therapy seems like a great way to maintain our mental health. I’ve never gone to therapy myself, but after doing more research for this article, I’ve become more interested in trying it out! The only problem is that I wasn’t really sure of how to go about it. Where do I start? What should I expect? These are just some of the many questions that most of us have when it comes to going to therapy.
If you already have a potential therapist in mind, now it’s time to prepare for your first session. According to AJ, the first session is usually when the therapist can get to know the client and their concerns, which includes a debriefing of how long they’ll be meeting with each other and certain boundaries that must be established before going further.
During the first session, expect that you will be talking about yourself a lot. AJ mentioned that most clients when they go into their first session, they notice that it’s the first time they’ve ever talked about themselves for an hour, and with a stranger! While it can be awkward and nerve-wracking, this stranger isn’t just a stranger. It’s important to come as you are—you don’t have to put on a mask. Besides, therapists are bound by law to keep your information confidential, and you’re not just talking about yourself for no reason. They need you to talk in order for them to help you.
Knowing what you want to say to the therapist or what kind of help you want can make the session go by more smoothly. Before the session you can think about what concerns you have, the concerns that you can talk about, and the concerns you aren’t ready to talk about yet. This can also help you be more confident, because you know what you want to say during the session and are prepared for any questions that you were initially afraid to answer.
As the person who will do most of the talking, this means that you have control over the conversation. AJ noted that as a therapist, their job is to listen and to guide their clients. As a client, you have the right not to answer a question if you’re uncomfortable, and you are also allowed to end the session early if you want. At the same time, be as open as you can. They know that it’s not a walk in the park, since talking about yourself can be quite daunting if that’s something you’re not used to. The therapist will always try to make the session as comfortable as possible.
As for the next few sessions, there are a lot of things to expect that can be new to people who have never been to therapy. For example, most therapists like to give their clients homework or activities to accomplish outside of the session. AJ compared doing homework to a gym membership, where she explained that even if you go to the gym and workout, nothing will change if you aren’t eating properly or practicing a healthy lifestyle in between your workout sessions. In the same way, homework is there to bridge between sessions and to make the recovery faster. It can also serve as a way for clients to actively participate in their recovery, so they don’t become dependent on the therapy sessions alone.
As I’ve mentioned before, there is nothing wrong with asking for help. Humans are not perfect—We have emotions and feelings, and each of us have different things that we value. No one is the same! Everyone has their own unique characteristics.
Going to therapy just means that we acknowledge that humans aren’t perfect. We don’t have to prove to anyone that we are. We all have things we cannot do on our own, even if it’s something we don’t want to admit. Going to therapy doesn’t mean you are broken, or that something needs to be fixed. Therapy can be a sanctuary, where we let out some of our deepest personal concerns, and where we can be guided to adopt a more positive frame of mind. Some believe that going to therapy might make us feel like a burden, but it actually implies that we have the strength to be vulnerable and to acknowledge our weaknesses.
You shouldn’t treat therapy as an expense or requirement, or even as something that makes you inferior. Think of it as a “me time”, as a way to take care of yourself. Helping yourself also means helping those around you who care about you. It’s difficult but allow yourself to be you when you go to therapy. Don’t judge yourself and try to be your own cheerleader!
That’s still okay! Take your time to consider all that’s been mentioned here and in the past articles, and maybe even do a bit more research if you’re still unsure. But at the same time, it’s important to note that your deliberation is a way to decide the best path for you, and not as a way to stall. It’s okay to be careful but remember that taking action is the next step towards reaching your goal!
Aside from going to therapy, it’s also important to have people in your life to support you. Don’t listen to anyone who makes you feel bad or who belittles your efforts to grow. Be with those who care about you, and those who you care for! Surrounding yourself with positivity and love is the first step in preparing yourself for therapy.
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