What to Expect in Your First Counseling Session

Seeing a therapist for the first time can be an intimidating experience.  After all, you don't know this person yet you are expected to bear your soul to them. You probably don't even confide in your husband, wife, or best friend about this stuff!  So what can you expect?

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Well, if you haven't filled out paperwork before your session, you'll want to get there just a bit early to do that.  If your therapist has the paperwork online, then fill that out before your appointment so they have it when you get there.  There might be questions that will help the therapist understand why you are there.  But there will also be pages that explain your confidentiality rights, the practice policies, and things like that. 

If you are using insurance to pay for your sessions, you will have to have a diagnosis.  That means the therapist will be asking questions to determine what that diagnosis might be.  Those are questions that, though personal, are a bit more general.  They might ask if you tend to feel anxious and how often.  They might ask about your sleep patterns. 

You can expect the therapist to ask why you are there.  To help you, they need to know what brought you into the office.  And they might take time to tell you about themselves and how they work, what techniques they use, and other information to ensure you and they are comfortable that there is a connection and you both feel you can work together. 

Sometimes the entire first session is taking care of policies, brief history, and "getting to know you."  Sometimes the client and therapist will have time to jump into some therapy and even homework assignments if they use them.  This depends entirely on the client, why they are there, and time constraints.

While there are some things that are common practice, like forms, introductions, and basic client history, the rest of the first session and all sessions going forward are generally very fluid in terms of planning.  Each client is different, each therapist is different, and treatment by it's very personal nature must be individual and different.  And although the first session can be intimidating, know that if you feel that there is no connection, and you are not comfortable with that therapist, you can find another one that may be a better fit.  You don't have to see someone you aren't comfortable with just because you had an appointment with them once.  But more often than not, by the end of that first session, you will know that you've found someone you can talk to and feel safe with.