As Fred Rogers has said - “Anything human is mentionable, and anything mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”
This quote is a reflection of what therapy and human emotions are. For some people, starting therapy can be overwhelming while for others, the idea of what they can expect from therapy can be tough to understand and deal with. While you may have your reservations about starting therapy, most people express a common concern of facing difficulty in understanding what the first interaction with a therapist may look like.
Therapy is always a work in progress and your therapist is someone who will walk with you through this journey while helping you explore your strengths. It is normal for you to hesitate and be nervous about the expectations to keep from your first session - but the idea is to keep going! So, here's something that can help you get some insight into what your first therapy session would look like.
Just as different people have different concerns, different psychologists have special expertise or experience in specialised areas. You must find the right therapist that would suit your needs and is equipped to help you manage various challenges.
Once you have chosen your therapist, the next step is to prepare yourself for the first session. Your first session with your therapist can be stressful for you initially. However, your therapist would ensure you feel comfortable and safe so that you can use the therapy space efficiently.
The interaction would usually include sharing basic demographic information about you and your therapist.
Followed by building rapport that will help you connect with your therapist.
The therapist would then walk you through the process of therapy and their therapeutic approach- This would include information related to confidentiality, organisational policies, the scope of work of the therapist, time limits, etc.
You can then share your history and concerns that bring you to therapy - this interaction is important so as to refine some concerns and also help you prioritise your immediate and long-term goals for change.
Throughout the process of sharing information, you may be asked certain questions to help them understand some experiences or gaps. For example: What brought you to therapy? What do you feel is not working out for you? Some questions about your history, including your childhood, education, relationships (family, romantic relationships, friends), your current living situation, and your career.
Your first session is not limited for the therapist to know you. It is equally important that you also put across any concerns you have in therapy. For example, you can use this opportunity to get to know your therapist a little better by asking more about their training, experience, approaches, and goals for therapy.
As therapy is a process wherein you need to support yourself in the long run, you must allow yourself and your therapist a few sessions to connect and get comfortable.
After a few sessions, if you need to determine whether your therapist is the right fit for you, you can ask yourself these questions:
Does your therapist challenge you?
Does your therapist check-in with you?
Does your therapist guide and support you in your goals?
Does your therapist help you learn?