Seeing a therapist for the first time isn’t always easy. It can make you feel vulnerable, nervous or awkward and one of the most important things to remember is that you're not alone in your feelings. It's perfectly normal to experience a wide range of emotions, and seeking help is a brave and positive step towards healing. We are here to support you throughout your journey. Before we begin, know that therapy is a very individualized process. There’s no right or wrong way to do therapy and your needs and preferences will inform your experience. Here are some things to consider and learn as you navigate your first steps.
Reflect on why you are starting therapy:
Before your first session, take some time to reflect on why you decided to start therapy. What are your goals, concerns, or challenges? You may not have a clear answer - and that’s okay - but coming in with an idea of what you are looking to work on will help you and your therapist be sure therapy is directed to your goals.
Finding it hard to articulate your challenges? This article may help
What happens during the first session?
Your first session with the therapist will be different from future visits. During the first session, the therapist may go over more administrative information such as confidentiality, policy information, signing some documents (e.g., an agreement form), and what is to be expected from the session or therapy together more generally. They will also likely ask a lot of questions to get to know you, your history, your general situation, and your therapeutic goals. This first session is a period for you and your therapist to get to know each other. It's a safe and confidential space, so feel free to share as much or as little as you're comfortable with. The first session sets the foundation for your therapeutic journey.
During the first session, your therapist may ask you questions about things such as:
- What brought you to therapy - they may explore what’s happening and also what made you reach out at this time specifically
- Going through symptoms lists (e.g., asking about your experience of specific symptoms related to things like your mood, experience of anxiety, risk factors, etc.)
- Questions about your history, including your childhood, education, relationships (family, romantic, friends), and your career
- Your goals and what therapy success would look like. This may sounds like “What are you hoping to gain out of therapy?” Or “What would it look like if therapy was working for you?”
You can also take this opportunity to get to know your therapist better and ask common questions to understand how they fit your needs:
- Learn about their training, experience and approaches for your concerns
- Understand how your confidentiality will be maintained
- Go over brief expectations from each session and how you can best work together towards a common objective
After the first session, check in with yourself to see how you feel and how your session went. Reflect on what your expectations were and how they were met. You may feel exhausted or like there’s still more background and context to share after your session– that’s perfectly normal. Try and give yourself some time after your session to unwind and process the emotions that have arisen.Remind yourself that the therapeutic process takes time.
How and when do you know if your therapist is a good match for you?
Building a strong therapeutic relationship is essential for effective therapy. There’s no definite answer about how quickly you’ll determine whether you and your therapist are a good match, but you may get a gut feeling within the first couple of sessions. Some good questions to ask yourself when deciding if you and your therapist have a good connection– do you feel like your therapist makes a sincere effort to understand you? Do you feel heard? Do you feel like their approach fits your needs? Do they seem knowledgeable and competent?
Consider how you felt opening up to them and assess your level of comfort in working with them over a period of time and whether they were the right fit for you. Learn more about assessing therapeutic fit here.
It’s ok to switch therapists.
It’s possible that the first therapist you’ll see won’t have the chemistry you need and it’s perfectly fine to switch. Sometimes, they just aren’t the right fit for you - you don’t feel like you click or their approach to therapy isn’t working for you. You don’t need to stick to the first therapist you meet and not liking a therapist doesn’t mean therapy isn’t for you.
Layla will support you through the process of getting rematched if you aren’t happy with your first match and your dedicated care coordinator will factor your experience into consideration while making a new match.
There is no set timeline for therapy.
The period of time spent in therapy sessions is very individualized and working with your therapist to address your preferences and needs are key. Generally, at the beginning of therapy, you may meet with your therapist more frequently to address the presenting concern. After the initial phase of treatment you may begin to notice changes and may be meeting some goals that you originally sought therapy to address. At this stage, you and your therapist may space out your sessions to longer intervals to continue the work while giving you ample time to practice your skills. Alternatively, you may decide to continue to meet more frequently and start working on other things as well as your initial goal areas.
Every individual's journey in therapy is unique, and there's no set timeline for how long it will take to see results. Healing and personal growth take time, so be patient with yourself. At the same time, if you are feeling like a lot of time has passed and you are not making progress, do bring it up in session. Your therapist should work with you to establish realistic goals and help you progress at a pace that suits you.
Learn more about what makes therapy work here
Do’s and Don’ts when you’re new to therapy
- Be Open and Honest: Share your thoughts and feelings openly with your therapist. Honesty is key to understanding and addressing your concerns effectively.
- Set Clear Goals: Work with your therapist to establish clear and achievable goals for therapy. Knowing what you want to accomplish can help guide the process.
- Take Responsibility: Recognize that therapy is a collaborative effort. Be proactive in your own healing process and implement strategies discussed in sessions in your daily life.
- Ask Questions: Don't hesitate to ask your therapist questions if you don't understand something or need clarification. Understanding the therapeutic process is important.
- Maintain Consistency: Attend sessions regularly and be consistent with your appointments. Consistency contributes to better progress in therapy.
- Practice Self-Care: Outside of therapy, take care of your physical and emotional well-being. Engage in activities that promote relaxation and reduce stress.
- Be Patient: Understand that progress in therapy may not always be linear. Healing takes time, give yourself time to feel comfortable and pay attention to your feelings.
- Don't Expect Instant Results: Therapy is a process, and change takes time. Don't expect immediate solutions to complex issues.
- Don't Compare Yourself: Avoid comparing your progress or experiences to others. Each person's journey in therapy is unique.
- Don't Judge Yourself Harshly: Be kind to yourself and refrain from self-criticism. Therapy is a space for self-compassion and self-acceptance.
- Don't Hide Important Information: It's important to disclose relevant information to your therapist, even if it's uncomfortable or embarrassing. They are there to help and support you.
- Don't Rely Solely on Therapy: While therapy is valuable, it's not a substitute for other necessary forms of support. Continue to nurture your relationships and seek help from family and friends when needed.
- Don't Expect Your Therapist to Solve Everything: Therapists are guides and facilitators in your journey. They can provide tools and insights, but you play a vital role in implementing positive changes in your life.
- Don't Give Up Easily: If you face challenges or doubts in therapy, don't give up prematurely. Discuss your concerns with your therapist to explore possible solutions or adjustments to the approach. Additionally, don’t stick with a therapist you don’t feel comfortable with.
Ready to begin your journey? Layla is here to help - Individuals, couples, and families use Layla for personalized, convenient therapy. Layla matches you to a suitable therapist and manage the therapy process in a warm, dependable manner, supporting you on your journey to better health. Learn more here.