What to Expect in Your First Psychotherapy Session
Although seeking help for mental health struggles is becoming more accepted and de-stigmatised, even the most accepting people may wonder what exactly to expect in the first meeting with a therapist. In general, here are 3 things every first psychotherapy session should include:
- A discussion of what you would like to change: This discussion usually begins with the question: what made you reach out for help? For some it might be a specific event, like a fight with a family member , a panic attack, or break up with a significant other. For others, counseling may be something they have been contemplating for a while. Often folks call in after one too many days of battling their depression or anxiety. It is likely that your therapist will spend some time exploring how the presenting issue developed and any other key stressors in your life.
- Taking your mental health temperature: Your therapist should also spend some time assessing how you are functioning in your daily life , given the problems you presented. They will likely ask about: Sleep, eating/appetite, attention/concentration, exercise habits, current coping skills, support system, caffeine intake, alcohol intake, recreational drug use, family history of mental illness, current medications.
- An assessment of their understanding of your issues and how they might help you. You should leave the session with an idea of what the therapist thinks is causing your current struggles and how they propose to help. This assessment may vary depending on how the therapist practices and conceptualized treatment. Some therapists may focus on exploring your thought patterns and irrational beliefs. Some might focus on your emotional experiences and ways to understand and control your feelings. Others might look at your relationship patterns and how this fuels difficulties. Another therapist might propose to improve your coping skill through teaching stress management techniques. Most modern therapists will use a combination of these interventions. What is most important, is that you leave the office with an idea of how the therapist can help you.
I hope this helps demystify the first session. Here are some links to further explore starting psychotherapy and different types of treatment :
Pamela Warner Marsh, Psy.D. is a fully licensed clinical psychologist and Director of Marsh Psychology Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-860-2024