What to Expect in your First Individual Therapy Session


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So you have made the decision to see a therapist. First of all, it is normal to feel some anxiety about your first therapy session, especially if you have never done therapy before.  You are meeting with someone who is a perfect stranger to talk about your feelings and very personal issues.  This can feel scary for some people. Your therapist understands this and hopefully will be able to put you at ease.

What can you expect for your first therapy session?

Where to meet your therapist- Your therapist will greet you in the designated waiting area for your appointment.  If you are a bit early, you can have a seat and wait until your therapist comes to greet you.  Often they will be in a meeting with someone else before hand and will come to find you at your appointment time.  If you arrive late, please go directly to the therapist’s office.

Completing the paperwork- Once you go into the office and have a chance to get seated, there will often be paperwork to complete.  The therapist will already have your appointment form containing the basic information, but may have  some additional details to confirm with you.

Informed consent- Next, the therapist will review the informed consent form, which is a document that explains the framework of therapy- the frequency and duration of your sessions, the rules about confidentiality and information about fees and payment.  The informed consent is basically the contract between you and your therapist, which describes how the two of you will work together.

Getting started- From here, different therapists will work in different ways.  Some may have a structured questionnaire that they will go through with you to do a full assessment of your symptoms and reasons for seeking therapy.  Other therapists prefer to work in a less structured way, opening with some variation of “What’s bringing you here?” or “Can you tell me more about your reasons for coming to therapy at this time?” and let the conversation flow from here.

It is important to know that there is no right or wrong way to tell your story.  Some people prefer to start at the beginning and go through their story chronologically.  Others prefer to start with the most pressing concern in the present moment and work backwards from there.  There are many different ways to approach your story and all of them are fine!

Here are some things your therapist may want to know about in the first (or first few) sessions:

This information will help to guide your therapist toward the best ways of working with you

  • Your family history.
  • Your current situation including important relationships, work or school, and daily habits.
  • How you are experiencing your symptoms: how long they have been present, and information about the timing of their onset.
  • Past experiences you may have had with therapy: if there was anything about your past experience that was particularly helpful or not helpful at all.
  • More fully exploring your goals for therapy to understand better what you are hoping to get out of the experience.

Many therapists will view the first therapy session as an evaluation period.  The goal here is to get to know one another better and to see if you are a good fit.

The right fit?- One of the most important factors in therapy is that you feel comfortable with your therapist and that you feel like you are a good match.  Not every person clicks well with every therapist, and your therapist understands this.

Voicing your questions- Feel free to bring up your questions or concerns if there is something that you don’t feel so comfortable with or think that the therapist’s approach isn’t what you need.  We appreciate your feedback and your therapist wants to make sure that you get the best service possible.  Many times, with your input, the therapist is able to adapt his or her approach so that it may be more helpful for you, your personality style and your unique needs.

If for any reason, your therapist really doesn’t feel like a good fit, this is completely okay. Your therapist should be able to help facilitate a transfer to another professional, or if you prefer to contact our intake team to ask to be reassigned, we would be happy to help you find another professional on our team who would better suit your needs.