Written by: Rebecca Murray, M.A., MFT, Founder and Director of the Montreal Therapy Centre
So you have made the decision to see a therapist. First and foremost, it is normal to feel anxiety about your first therapy session. You are meeting with someone who is a perfect stranger to talk about your feelings and very personal issues. This can make you feel very vulnerable and scared. Your therapist understands this and hopefully will be able to put you at ease.
There are many reasons for seeking therapy
- You have a fear of flying and feel your anxiety levels going through the roof as your work trip abroad looms in front of you.
- You’ve been feeling down in the dumps lately and want to find ways to get out of your rut.
- You’ve just had a break up and can’t stop crying.
- You can’t pinpoint exactly what’s wrong but have a vague sense that something inside of you is holding you back.
- You feel at the end of the rope with your job and want to explore different career options.
What can you expect for your first therapy session?
At the beginning of the first therapy session there will often be paperwork to complete. This can help to break the ice. The therapist may want to collect some basic information about you for your file and complete an 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.
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!
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.
- 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. 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. Feel free to bring up your questions or concerns and if the fit isn’t right, your therapist should be able to help facilitate a transfer to another professional.
Edited by: Mayte Parada, PhD Psychology. Montreal Therapy Centre.