First Visit to a Psychologist: What to Expect and How to Prepare
2nd February 2020
It’s normal to feel a little nervous before starting therapy, particularly if you’ve never been before. Doing anything for the first time can feel intimidating.
But there’s really nothing to worry about.
You will never be pushed into talking about anything you feel uncomfortable about. And whilst it’s true some approaches to therapy are more short-term than others, you will never be diving in “head first”. You set the pace – and your therapist is there to guide you every step of the way.
People decide to go to therapy for all kinds of different reasons. Some people start therapy because they’re looking for help with a specific mental health issue like anxiety or depression, or because they’re having a relationship difficulty or a particular life change they need help navigating.
But not everyone comes to therapy with a clear idea of what they’re looking for.
Some people come simply because they’re interested in finding out how they can become a better version of themselves. Maybe they’re looking to improve their self-confidence, become more assertive or they simply want to understand themselves better.
Others might come because they’re just feeling very lost, and they’re looking to find more purpose and meaning in life.
The point is, there is no “wrong” time to go to therapy. Whether you’re here because you’re feeling unwell or you’re just curious about what therapy has to offer, you’ve chosen the right time to start.
What to say in your first therapy session
First and foremost, therapy is a space where you can feel safe to talk about whatever is on your mind. It’s a place to talk about difficult thoughts and feelings you might otherwise feel scared to share with the people around you. It’s a place to feel understood – and for some people, for the first time.
Getting an objective viewpoint can help shed light on thoughts or behaviours that are holding you back – that you might have otherwise not recognised.
But it’s also completely normal to get to therapy and not really know what you want to talk about. Maybe you feel like something’s “up” but you can’t quite put your finger on it.
Your therapist will meet you wherever you are at, so never feel pressured into thinking that you need to know what you want to talk about in your sessions. Just making it through your therapist’s door is enough.
What will my psychologist ask me?
In your first session, your psychologist will mostly want to understand a bit about you and what you’d like to get out of therapy.
They’ll also introduce themselves, and explain a bit about who they are, their background and what your sessions might look like going forward.
They may ask you what you’re struggling with at the moment, and how long you’ve been feeling like that. And depending on what type of therapy, they might dig a bit further into your past and ask you about your family and early childhood experiences.
Ultimately, in this first session, your therapist is looking to build up a picture of how you’ve come to where you are today, and what you’re looking to get out of therapy. This is going to enable them to tailor their approach to what’s will work best for you. Different therapeutic modalities tackle things differently so it’s really about finding an approach that’s going to benefit you most in your sessions.
There’s no wrong time
Whether you’re starting therapy because you’re looking for help with a specific issue or you just feel like something’s “up”, it’s always worth sitting down with a professional to get a different perspective. Take it as an important cue to understand something about yourself – the feeling that something’s off is often just the tip of the iceberg.
Not only is therapy going to help you get back on track but it will also help you make important changes in your life to prevent the same issues from coming up again in the future.