Thoughts on How to Approach Your First Therapy Session
Do you feel uneasy or downright scared about starting therapy? Well, of course! You walk into a stranger's office and disclose a problem–and personal problems are not something we've been trained to talk about upon first meeting someone–let alone a complete stranger. So yes, it is scary; how can it not be! After all, you're entering an unknown area, not feeling at your best and hoping and wondering whether your time with a therapist will be helpful.
When you enter your therapist's office for the first time, my advice is to be aware of your surroundings and ask yourself a series of questions: Does the waiting room feel inviting? How does the therapist greet you? Are you given a warm and sincere welcome or one that is cool and "professional?" Are you comfortable with a therapist who engages you in dialogue, asks you questions and offers feedback? (By the way, this describes my style!) As you begin to disclose your personal story, ask yourself whether your personality and style is compatible with your therapist's.
As your therapist is interviewing you to find out your needs, it is equally important for you to interview her! Ask your therapist what her experience is with the issues you bring, years in practice, etc. One question I believe that is not asked enough is whether the therapist has been in therapy herself. This is important for a number of reasons. Most importantly, you want to know if your therapist deals with her own "stuff" so that she will be in the best position to help you deal with your "stuff." And, it's important for therapists to have experienced psychotherapy in order to offer it effectively!
Upon completing your first session, the most important question to ask yourself is this: Do I want to return? Did anything happen that leads me to believe I can really get help here? Am I less scared than when I began the session? When thinking about a second appointment, do I feel good about returning? If the answer is "No," you should seriously consider seeking a more compatible therapist. Selecting to work with a therapist is like finding a best friend; someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing confidences; someone who is not only unbiased but honors and respects you; someone who is trained to focus on you and help you make the changes you've been wanting. That someone is not easy to find, but once you do, it can change your life!
If you have any questions about entering into therapy, please feel free to contact me and I'll be happy to respond.