Whether your first session is fast approaching or you’re still wondering whether to take the plunge, getting a glimpse into what actually happens in your first therapy session can help you set any fears aside and ensure you’re in the best place possible to make the decision that feels right for you.

Lots of people feel nervous about starting therapy. And it’s totally normal to feel a bit apprehensive in the lead up to your first therapy session. The prospect of opening up to a stranger can feel scary – particularly if it’s something we haven’t done before. Starting anything new can be scary.

But there’s really nothing to feel worried about.

Therapy is not the fourth degree. You will never be pushed into talking about anything you don’t want to talk about. In fact, it’s your therapist’s job to make sure you feel as comfortable as possible at all times.

One of the biggest misconceptions about therapy is that we need to wait until crisis point to benefit from it. The reality is very different. People go to therapy for all kinds of different reasons – it can be as simple as just wanting to reach a particular goal. The simple truth is, it’s never too soon to go to therapy.

When someone goes to the gym regularly, we assume they’re in good shape. Like this, therapy should be seen as just as much preventative as it is curative.

Therapy initial consultation: here’s what to expect

The initial consultation is essentially a snippet of what’s to come, and a chance for you and your therapist to get to know each other better.

In this first session, your therapist will want to get an idea of the main things you’re looking to get out of therapy. Are there any immediate surface issues you’d like help with? Maybe you’re looking for help working through a relationship issue, or you’d like to feel less stressed at work, be sleeping better at night – or maybe you just feel like something’s ‘up’ but you can’t quite put your finger on it. These are all things worth bringing up in your first session.

By providing your therapist with a bit of insight, they’ll be able to draw up a plan for how you’ll work together over the coming months.

We’ve compiled a few important pointers to keep in mind during your initial consultation:

1. Listen to how they make you feel

Your therapist is never going to be your best friend. In fact, this distinction is what makes the therapeutic relationship so unique and beneficial. That said, your therapist is someone you’re going to be sharing time with each week. For this reason, it’s important that you feel comfortable with them. Opening up can take a while but we tend to naturally connect better with some people over others. The same applies to choosing a therapist. Not every therapist is going to be the right one for you. The best thing you can do is tune into your gut, and ask yourself, “how does this person make me feel?”

2. Never be afraid or embarrassed by your emotions

Often by the time we make it to therapy, we’ve spent a lifetime bottling up our emotions, trying to ‘hold things together’. This might be the first time you’ve talked openly about situations and emotions you’ve been struggling with for a long time. Because of this, when we first start therapy we might experience strong emotional responses – which is completely normal. Crying is part and parcel of the human experience, and something you should never feel embarrassed about. It might feel a little strange at first, but most people get a huge sense of relief when they start unpicking and releasing pent up emotions and worries.

3. Remind yourself that therapy is always confidential

Consider therapy your safe space. A place where you can share all those weird and wonderful thoughts you feel too embarrassed to share with anyone else. The more honest and open you can be with your therapist the quicker you’ll start seeing results. Some people take much longer than others to open up, and you’ll find over time that it naturally gets easier to talk about the difficult stuff. Always remind yourself that anything you share with your therapist is completely confidential. And the chances are, they’ve seen and heard it all so make sure you don’t hold anything back!

4. Remember that your therapist is human too

Your therapist will have been through hundreds of hours of therapy themselves as part of their training. This means they know exactly what it feels like to be on the other side. Their role is to meet you as an equal, and to guide and support you on your journey.

How to prepare for your first therapy session

Therapy is all about you. This means you are the boss so don’t be afraid to use this first session as a chance to express what it is you’re looking for. If you’re not sure, try journalling a bit and see what comes up. Which areas of your life are you unhappy with at the moment? How could things be better?

Starting therapy with a bit of an idea around what you’d like to get out of the process can help steer the direction and make sure the focus rests on the things that are most important to you.

That said, it’s also completely fine if you’re not sure. Don’t feel any pressure to name what it is that’s bothering you if you feel unclear. Some of us seek therapy precisely because we’re looking for that clarity – and that’s fine too.

Questions to ask in your first therapy session: turning the tables

If you have time on your hands, and you’re the type of person who likes coming prepared (again, it’s not essential!), you might want to ask your therapist a few questions in your initial consultation. Coming prepared with a few questions can help you get to know your therapist better and understand all the different ways they might be able to help you.

We’ve pulled together a few questions that might come in handy during your first session:

1. Have you ever helped anyone else with my particular issue?

2. What kind of approach would you take to help me with this?

3. How many sessions do you think it will take in order for me to start seeing results?

We’re all unique which means we all have our own particular set of issues. The therapy process will be slightly different for each and every one of us.

One thing your first session will leave you with is a good idea of what’s going to come next. So all that’s left to do now is to take a step back and congratulate yourself for having taken the first, most important step of all – and simply allow the rest to unfold.