First Therapy Session: What to Expect
What to Expect at Therapy
Your first appointment is primarily an information-gathering session for your therapist. The therapist needs to learn a lot about you and your history in a short amount of time in order to properly evaluate your concerns and arrive at a possible diagnosis. Since diagnosis often helps guide treatment, it’s an important part of the process.
Your story is indeed your own and a very personal one at that. Despite what you may have read, a person is not simply a diagnosis. Nor do therapists look at people who consult at the practice that way. Your therapist's main job is to simply listen to you and become the world’s second-foremost expert on you (you being the first). So feel confident that your therapist doesn’t know you as you know yourself in that first session, and tell your story — what brings you in today?
Therapists of course want to hear what the current problem is and where it all started. That helps address your immediate needs and what brought you in that day to see the therapist. But we also might ask you a bit about your childhood and family background, not in some “lay down on the couch and tell me about your mother” way, but just to understand your development a little better.
You, being the expert on yourself, can share as much or as little as you’d like. While therapists will often say, “Tell me everything,” the truth of the matter is that you have a limited amount of time in session (usually 50 to 60mins). You have to focus on what’s most important to you. Many times you will leave your first session thinking you left out something important. Not to worry, it’s something you can always talk about in your next session.
Many people will leave their first session alternately feeling: relieved, horrified, peaceful, even more anxious, and hopeful, or any combination of these feelings and more. Get used to that feeling, because psychotherapy is an experience unlike any other in this world. It is powerful, but it can also be a little scary and intimidating. Most people who try psychotherapy end up liking it, and appreciating their time with their therapist as a chance to explore new ways of being, of thinking, of feeling.