Welcome once again to Tuesday Therapy Notes, the weekly series examining some of the types of therapy that exist, as well as some common issues. Last week, we talked about how to know when to look for a new therapist. This week I want to tell you what to expect on your first visit.
Now, the first visit is something I’ve done three times. And even with my experience, I sometimes still have anxiety. After all, therapy is typically where some seriously personal stuff comes up and this person is a complete stranger. What if they judge me? What if we don’t click and I have to start this process all over? There are a lot of what ifs that will likely make anyone a bit anxious.
And while the waiting areas are typically, small, nondescript, comfortable, rooms that shouldn’t create any anxiety, don’t feel surprised if you nevertheless feel that. There might be a white noise machine in the room, to prevent any of the sessions inside the office being overheard outside the office. There might also be calming music playing softly from somewhere in the room.
Your first interaction will probably be like any other interaction, filling out forms and dealing with insurance questions. Some therapists have this paperwork online in a secure format that will allow you to skip this step when you actually show up. Some therapy offices may also ask you to fill out an intake form that briefly touches on the issues you’re seeking therapy for.
Even if there is an intake form, chances are they will ask you an open-ended question, like “what brings you in today?” This is your chance to tell your story in whatever way you want. You don’t need to be super detailed, there will be chances to fill in the details in later sessions. And if the idea of telling your story makes you nervous, don’t worry. While this might be your first time, your therapist will be experienced and will be able to ask guided questions to help nudge you along.
As for time, the therapist will take care of that, so there is no need to watch the clock. As for what happens after, you and your therapist will likely set up a time for your next appointment. As for you, you might not necessarily feel more relaxed. After all, bringing up these issues can be hard, and sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. If that happens, don’t let it discourage you. Because therapy can be a powerful tool on the road to recovery. And hopefully, this post will help you prepare for your first session.