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We have to start somewhere: How to prepare for your first session

Whether you have scheduled your first session with a therapist or not, there is a lot of anticipation and nerves around having an initial therapy visit. You might have to wait on a waitlist for a time or maybe you are struggling to find a therapist who meets your search criteria. Right now it seems that therapy offices are bursting at the seams. So it wouldn’t surprise me if you haven’t been getting calls back from therapists. Or maybe the ones who call you back aren’t taking new clients. Or they charge too much or don’t take insurance. Or maybe they have openings and you can afford their fee, but they aren’t the age or gender or religion or specially trained in the ways you wish they were.

Searching online for a therapist. Woman with head on forehead, resting elbow on desk, looking at her computer.

Everyone always says so much about finding the right fit, but what if you’re trying really hard and the stars are not aligning? You’re really struggling or feel really motivated to get started and it just seems like the universe is against you or something. Or maybe there is a part (big or small) that doesn’t really want to start right now. You find yourself hesitating to make that call or commit to scheduling a time. In today’s blog, I want to specifically talk about the time between when you decide that you want or need therapy and the moment you sit on the couch in your first session. I’m going to provide you with some tips that I wish someone would have told me when I decided to see a therapist for the first time and what I want my clients to know even before they end up in my office.

It's time to start therapy. A clock on a white wall above a desk that has a plant and lamp on it.

So you want to start therapy? Great! It is important to notice the feeling or thought that starting therapy seems like a good idea for you now. Why? Take note. What was it? What was the thing that pushed you to the point of saying, “Now is the time.”?

Think about the struggles you carry or the difficulties you face. Get really specific because I want to dig deeper than answers like “I’m depressed.” or “I have an anxiety disorder.” I want to know specifically what does depression or anxiety look like for YOU? How does it impact you? What problems does it cause you? If I followed you around taking video, how would I know you were struggling?

And if you were to get the help you wanted, what in your life would be different? This is the question I ask my clients when they come to my office for the first time. It helps us to develop goals, but it also helps us to identify values, reality test, and come up with a plan for terminating treatment. Yes, I said terminating treatment. The purpose of therapy is to get better, make sustainable changes in your life, and flourish. My personal opinion is that good therapy, in most cases, will not be something you do forever.

Flourishing after therapy. Talk with trusted people. Three friends laughing together.

Talk with trusted people in your life. If you feel comfortable, tell someone that you’re starting therapy or thinking about it. Ask for their feedback or input. Again, pick someone who is kind and nonjudgmental who might be able to talk with you about how they see it being helpful for you. Another idea would be to talk with a friend who has been in counseling themselves and ask what their experience was like.

The change/growth/healing process has already started. We have to start somewhere, and you're doing it! From my perspective, the moment you know that therapy is something you are going to look into seriously is when things inside of you have already begun to shift… maybe ever so slightly, but shift none the less. Actually, if we really want to go deep into understanding the process of growth and change, we could probably argue that your process started even before you were open to the idea of therapy. Maybe it was when you first had the thought, “Life is really hard the way I’m doing it. Does everyone go through this?” “It would be nice to not feel so lonely.” Or “I think anxiety is starting to take over my life. I don’t like feeling this way.” These kinds of thoughts are about you acknowledging your experience and wondering about it. What a great starting point!

Small growth is growth because growth, healing, and change is a process that has to start somewhere. Branches with little green plants growing out of them.

Finding a therapist is also part of this process. I want to validate how hard it can be. If you think I could be of help in your process, contact me. I'd be glad to talk with you.


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