Starting Therapy: How to Prepare for Your First Session

You can't prepare for what you don't expect.

Thursday, 29th March 2018

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So you’ve found your therapist, booked in your first session - what next? Once all the administrative bits are out the way, that awkward in-between bit can be a bit nerve-racking. It’s really normal to feel anxious in the run up to starting therapy. Starting anything new brings with it an element of anticipation, whether it be nerves or excitement (or a likely sliding scale of the two). Combine that with opening up to a stranger and you’ve probably ranked the fear factor up a notch or two. But there’s really nothing to worry about. And remember: the hardest part - the bit you have to do alone - is over. You’ve got your therapist to guide you through the rest. So instead, take this time to give yourself a breather and be proud of yourself for making the conscious decision to bring about positive changes in your life.

There’s no need to prepare anything for your first therapy session if you don’t feel like it. Just rocking up is totally fine. However, taking a moment or two to check in with yourself and getting clear on a few things can help ensure you’re in the best position for getting the most out of your sessions:

Set an intention.

First up, it helps to have a bit of a think around what you’re looking to get out of therapy. This provides direction for your sessions and also sets you up with a starting point to chart your progress along the way. Check out our post New to Therapy? How Therapy Works and What to Expect for more guidance around setting intentions.

Give yourself a break. Feeling awkward is fine.

Most people will experience a few awkward stumbling blocks or silences in therapy - it’s all part of the journey. The likelihood is there’s no level of awkwardness your therapist hasn’t already encountered. So never feel embarrassed if you’re feeling uncomfortable. Aside from seeing new clients all the time, your therapist will have had hours of therapy themselves and understand how it feels to be on the other side. If you're looking for tips on how to get the ball rolling, read our post 4 Questions to Take to Your First Therapy Session.

Be as open as possible.

Most of us spend our days living in our head and not our feelings. This can make the transition to sitting with painful thoughts and feelings feel slightly strange at first. But try to stick with it as much as you can. Being open to explore the uncomfortable bits is often where the most progress is made.

Listen to your gut.

Take note of how your therapist made you feel… Did you feel comfortable opening up to them? Did they express things to you clearly in a way that made sense to you? A first session is a first session - more than anything, a chance for you both to get to know each other better. Progress takes time and unless you get a real red flag we’d suggest always giving your therapist a second shot. The number one rule is always listen to your gut instinct. Therapy’s not always going to be easy - and there’ll be moments that feel extremely challenging - but your therapist should instil a feeling of safety in you regardless. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t fret. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right match.

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