People put off starting therapy for a lot of different reasons, even when they know they really need help with something. Over the years I've heard a lot of different whys and wherefores for avoiding therapy and a lot of them boil down to this: "It'll feel weird/bad/scary/sad to say all this out loud because it's super personal/awkward/scary/upsetting/overwhelming. What's the point?" Of course, it feels much better once you're in it. And it feels great when you're done. But what happens between the before and after?
Starting is hard but nothing happens until you start. And it's easier to start when you know what to expect. I had a client recently tell me how helpful it had been to hear me describe during our consultation what his first session would be like. After that, he knew exactly what to expect. So for anyone else out there who needs to know what happens in a first therapy session, here you go. These are the things you can expect, as well as a few things you should consider, whether you're considering therapy with me or someone else.
First, things first - hopefully-not-awkward introductions, shaking hands, smiling and settling in. (Insider tip: if there's a sofa, that's probably for you and the therapist usually takes the big chair. If you're not sure, look for the clipboard and then take the other seat!) Settle in and take this time to assess a few things. First, do you get a good vibe from this person? How does the fit feel? The very, very first sentence Dr. Romano uttered in my very first therapy class is highly applicable here: "The most important thing to remember as a therapist is this: Just be normal." We all laughed at the time, but it's true, right? Normal is completely underrated. And normal is completely relative to YOU. Does this person feel like a good match to your normal? Is this someone you can talk to? Do you feel comfortable with him or her?
Next, usually comes a little chit chat and then I give people a general outline of what to expect over the next 50 minutes or so. These are the things in that list, though they often vary in order depending on how things go:
And that's it! A little chit chat, some questions from me, some questions from you, and you're done with your first session. It's not scary and it can feel really good to get it all out there. And pretty soon you'll be deep into the work, which is when the real fun begins.
But first, you have to start.