Calming your nerves: What you can expect at your first therapy session

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You’ve made the decision to seek therapy but feel anxious about your first session. Many questions are swirling through your mind. Do I have to tell the therapist everything? Will I be judged? Do I have to talk about my feelings?

It’s natural to experience some nervousness when going to therapy, especially for the first time. Knowing what to anticipate can help calm some of those nerves. Here’s what you can expect for your first visit.

When you arrive

Plan to arrive early to allow yourself enough time to complete the paperwork. Before meeting the therapist, front office staff will ask you to complete paperwork necessary for the appointment. Please remember to bring your identification and insurance information with you. Once the paperwork is completed, you will be ready to meet a therapist.

Expect to talk about yourself

In your first session, the therapist will try to get to know you by asking you a lot of questions. Some of the things he or she will want to know and ask about are why you are seeking therapy, your family history, medical history, and previous treatment history. The therapist will want to know if you are coming to therapy independently or through a referral, such as a judge. You also will be asked to discuss any goals you may have for therapy.

By gathering this information, the therapist can determine the type of services you will need and if the two of you are a good match.

“Clients should know that we understand there are some things they may not be ready to share, and it’s up to them to decide how much they want to share,” said Rebecca Dickinson, supervisor of Clinical Services at Day One, a program of Oakland Family Services.

“Everyone who comes to Day One is treated with respect and dignity regardless of their reason for the appointment. Our goal is to help them and work toward the changes they desire, not judge them in any way.”

Is it a good fit?

Your first visit isn’t just a time for the therapist to ask all of the questions. It’s important that you ask the therapist anything you want to know to ensure you will have a good working relationship.

You may want to ask the therapist about his or her training and experience or find out how long it is expected treatment will last.

“This visit is an opportunity for the client to ask questions of us,” Dickinson said. “We understand they want to make sure we are a good fit for them. At the same time, we are trying to make sure we have the services they need.”

Every therapist has a different style, and what’s most important is that you find someone who feels like a good fit for you. You should feel safe, respected and fairly comfortable with the therapist.

“At the end of the appointment, we will schedule their next visit either with that therapist or a different therapist if we identify that person is a better fit for them,” Dickinson said.

Over time, the nervousness you feel with a therapist should diminish and therapy will help you cope with your most pressing issues.