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The First Therapy Session

Read this article to learn more about what to expect from your first therapy session, as well as the following sessions.

Woman during meeting with professional counselor

Have you ever wondered what it is like to go to a therapist for the first time, how to find a therapist, or what the process of therapy even looks like? Well, most people base their ideas of therapy around what they see on movies or television shows, but therapy can look a lot different than what is portrayed in mainstream media. First, it takes a lot of courage to take the steps in considering going to therapy, so, yay for you! This can be the beginning of a growth-focused and healing journey to make your life more of what you want it to be! Here are some helpful tips on what to do before making an appointment, what to expect in the first session, and how to get the most out of your therapy experience. 

Before Making an Appointment for Your First Therapy Session

People can get referrals from their health insurance, trusted health care providers, or they can look up providers themselves in their area by using websites like When you look up a provider, first look to see if they accept your insurance. It is a good idea to call your insurance to see what your coverage is for mental health visits so that you know how much you will be charged per session. Many mental health providers will have websites or some information on how they work in therapy, and you can always call them to ask questions. 

Explore different providers’ information and pages to see if they feel like a good match for you. It’s important to find the right fit with a mental health care provider, so meeting different clinicians a few times may be a part of your process. Having a good relationship or connection with your therapist is key to having the process work for you. 

The First Therapy Session

It’s okay to be nervous – this is totally normal. This session is usually an intake interview in which the therapist provides you with consent forms and gathers information about your present concerns and history. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions in a lot of different areas of your life, and for the therapist to be taking notes. Most intake interviews are routine and a way for your therapist to get a full picture of you and your life experiences. This is a very important part of the therapy process and helping you both get to know one another.

During the first session, feel free to ask questions of your therapist’s work background if you would like to get to know them better, or if you are just curious about what therapy is like with them. The goal is to see if you connect and feel comfortable being open with them. This process may take some time to feel fully comfortable, but the first session is a start. 

The Next Therapy Sessions

Now, the work and growth begin. The next sessions help you establish goals of what you want to focus on in therapy. This stage is also very important and is usually done in the first or second session. Every therapist is different in their approach to therapy: some may write notes, and some may incorporate various exercises including mindfulness, art activities, or worksheets. Be open to the process, but also come in with a topic to focus on and work on each session that is related to your goals. You get out of it what you put into it. Do not be afraid to speak up for what you would like more of in session or if you’re just curious about something.

Some Misconceptions About Therapy

A big misconception about therapy is that your therapist will fix all your problems, but therapists do not have that type of magic (unfortunately). Many people’s concerns have developed over a lifetime and it will take time and patience to make long lasting change. 

A Positive Message About Therapy

Even though therapy can challenge you, the good news is that you often get out of therapy what you put into it. Success can also depend on how you apply those skills outside of session. You have to do the work in and out of sessions to improve. Your therapist is meant to be your guide and support throughout your journey. Therapy is only one hour out of your week, so it will require effort outside of session: reflection, focusing on your goals, and making concerted efforts to see the changes you want to see in your life. 

You are the expert on yourself and your therapist will help you see your value and will empower you to live the life you want.


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