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  • Writer's pictureLaryssa Levesque

Feeling Nervous About Starting Therapy? Here's What To Expect In Your First Counselling Session

When you’re struggling with your mental health, asking for help can be one of the hardest things you have to do. Even after reaching out to a mental health professional, the process can still feel a bit scary! As you wait for your first therapy session, you might find yourself worrying about what your new therapist will ask you, what you should say, how the session will work, and how you should prepare. If this sounds like you, then you’ve come to the right place! Keep reading as we discuss what your first session will involve to help you feel more prepared so you can get the most from your therapy!


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What To Expect In Your First Counselling Session


So, you've decided to start therapy and are now maybe wondering what to expect going into your first counselling session- that's normal! The "what ifs" and wanting to know every detail are common, especially for folks who struggle with anxiety. Counselling is a very vulnerable and personal experience so it makes sense to wonder what it might be like.


Free Consultations


Starting therapy is a big step towards reclaiming your wellbeing and working towards personal growth, which means it is important to have the right person supporting you through the process. Free consultations give you the opportunity to have a no pressure conversation to discuss your needs and understand how a therapist can help you.


During a free consultation, you will have the opportunity to talk with the therapist, explain what you would like to focus on during your time together, and see if you will be a good fit for each other. You will have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have, which could include: 


  • What is the therapist’s approach? 

  • What techniques will the therapist use? 

  • What formats will therapy be offered in? 

  • How often will you need to book sessions?

  • Does the therapist have experience working with similar cases?

  • General questions regarding therapy

  • Questions regarding fees


You may feel comfortable moving forward immediately with your therapist, or you may need to take some time to process the conversation. Many clients "shop around", booking several consultations with therapists to see who is the best fit. At Inner Growth Counselling, we encourage prospective clients to do this as we genuinely want you to receive the best care possible, which starts with finding the best therapist for you!


Overall, free consultations give you a no-obligation opportunity to ask any questions you may have, ensure you will be comfortable with your therapist, and ensure they have the abilities to meet your needs. To book your free consultation, take some time to read the descriptions of our team members and select one you feel would be a good fit for you!


Arriving To Your First Therapy Session


Now that you've found a therapist and booked your first appointment, it's time to actually start therapy! You will be sent intake and consent forms prior to your appointment which are important to review and complete ahead of time. These forms include a few questions about yourself, your history and your current concerns, as well as information regarding potential risks and benefits of therapy, fees, and policies regarding confidentiality, record keeping, and cancellations or missed appointments. All of this information will be reviewed at the beginning of your first session with your therapist, and you will have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have. 


Aside from the forms provided ahead of time for your first appointment, no special preparations are required and our priority is making you feel comfortable and heard. That said, some clients like to bring a notepad to take down notes or come prepared with a list of things they'd like to discuss.


When it comes to arriving to your first therapy session, this may look different depending on the format you have decided for your therapy. When arriving for an in-person session in our Barrie therapy office, you will be welcomed into our quiet and cozy waiting area where you can make yourself comfortable and have a refreshment while you wait for your session. Your therapist will come and greet you when it's time for your appointment.


For virtual appointments, whether that is video or phone, ensure that you are in a safe, quiet, and comfortable environment. The directions for your session will be provided via email, or provided by your therapist prior to your appointment. 


Entering your first session can be daunting and it is important that you feel comfortable. If there is anything the therapist can do to make you feel comfortable or better support you, don't be afraid to let them know!


During Your Therapy Session


During your first therapy session, introductions will take place, and the therapist will review your intake and consent forms to ensure you understand everything and answer any questions you may have. The remainder of the session will give you the opportunity to get comfortable opening up to your therapist, and helping them understand your concerns from your perspective.


During this time you will delve into the reasons you decided to start therapy and your needs or goals for therapy. This is the time where your therapist may ask you to provide more details on your mental health concerns, your personal circumstances, and what you hope to gain or achieve through therapy. This helps them get to know you and gives your therapist the chance to start formulating a therapy plan for you based on your needs.


As you discuss your needs and the details of your situation, your therapist may clarify the potential length of your treatment and the therapy methods they typically use. It is important that your treatment plan is collaborative and mutually agreed upon and that you are well informed throughout the entire process.


Remember: If you are uncomfortable or have concerns about any of the aspects of your therapist’s treatment plan, don’t be afraid to ask questions! 


Beyond the basics of establishing your goals for therapy and the plan to achieve those goals, be prepared to answer other questions about your current mental health struggles and other aspects of your life that can help give your therapist a better idea of your personal situation. Your therapist may ask questions such as: 


  • Why did you decide to begin therapy sessions? 

  • Have you attended therapy in the past? If so, for how long?

  • What are your symptoms?

  • Does anyone else in your family struggle with mental health challenges?

  • Can you tell me about your home life and relationships? 

  • Have you experienced thoughts related to suicidal ideation and/or engaged in self-harm?

  • What do you hope to achieve through therapy?

  • Is there anything in particular you want to work on together? 


It may be difficult to open up to your therapist at the beginning and that Is okay! It can be stressful and scary to divulge personal information to someone who is still essentially a stranger, but for therapy to work effectively it helps if you can be as open and honest about yourself as possible.


After Your First Therapy Session


No matter how great your first therapy session goes, it can be emotionally and physically draining, kind of like a "therapy hangover"! That doesn’t mean every session will be that intense, but your first session can sometimes involve bringing up memories and events that you may have been avoiding.


Alternatively, you may leave your first session feeling a sense of relief. This can come from the knowledge that you are finally addressing concerns that were causing you trouble for some time. But remember that while you may experience some relief after your first session, most mental health concerns will require multiple sessions before you see improvement. So don’t just head home and forget about therapy until your next appointment! It’s important to reflect on your session, what you learned, and how you felt about it. 


After your first therapy session, it can help to ask yourself how you felt your first appointment went and whether you would be comfortable attending another session with that therapist or working with them long-term. It’s good to try a few sessions with a new therapist to see if they’re the right fit.


But if your therapist makes you feel uncomfortable for any reason, or you don’t seem to click, you always have the right to search for a new therapist. This is about your mental health, not keeping your therapist happy. Therapy is an incredibly personal experience, so not every therapist will be the right fit for you. It’s okay to change your mind about a therapist after the first session or two—do whatever feels best for you; there are no hard feelings!


In addition, don’t be surprised if your therapist gives you “homework” to do before your next session. It could be anything from making notes about your behaviour, thoughts, or feelings; doing a physical task, or reading something they suggest. Try not to be put off by the idea of homework- it's about helping you get the most out of your therapy sessions and providing you with information and coping mechanisms to become a healthier version of yourself.


The Takeaway


Beginning your journey to improved mental health can be scary! Getting through your first therapy session can often be one of the hardest parts of seeking help, but it’s worth it. Take things one step at a time and reflect on how you feel as you're working through therapy. Communicate as openly as you can, create realistic goals, do your homework, and set yourself up for success!


If you have concerns about your mental health and have been considering therapy, or you’re looking for a new therapist, contact us for more information or to schedule a free 15 minute consultation. Our counsellors in Barrie are available for both in-person counselling options as well as virtual therapy. We would love to help you feel like yourself again!


 

Our team of online and in-person counsellors and psychotherapists in Barrie provide quality and effective mental health counselling services near you in Barrie and virtually across Ontario to individuals (6+), couples and families. We also offer an Affordable Therapy Program that provides counselling services in Barrie to individuals (12+) who are facing financial challenges that need mental health support.


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