Your First Therapy Session: Know What to Expect

by Carlene Lehmann, M.A., LMFT

therapy

Beginning your journey in therapy

journey

The decision to attend therapy is not made lightly. It probably took months or even years to accept that therapy might be able to help you. You most likely spent time looking into different therapists to find the right fit for your needs and comfort level. Congratulations, the hardest part is done!  You’re now ready to head to your first session and begin your journey toward healing and wellness.

How to get the most out of therapy sessions 

Now that all the arrangements are made, let’s talk about ways to get the most out of your therapy experience. This may seem a silly topic, since many people believe the therapist leads sessions, but you don’t want to start a therapeutic relationship without first knowing how we will work together. Understanding what the therapist will expect from you and what effort you need to put in will help you achieve the results you want.

Bring the goals you have for therapy. The work is your journey and your therapist is there to support you.

dreams

First, know that you will need to work the hardest. Your therapist should not and will not work harder than you. Yes, your therapist will create assignments and help break down your true feelings and desires, but it is up to you to do the work outside of session. You need to complete assignments, alter thinking errors, and improve relationships. Your therapist can’t do that work for you. If you feel like therapy isn’t working, consider taking a step back and reflecting on how much effort you’re truly putting into the experience. Perhaps more success will come when your efforts increase.

Providing a supportive and confidential environment so you can be open

Remember that your therapist is a trained professional. They not only have an education to support your needs, but also experience with various strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be embarrassed to share your secrets in the safe space of therapy, and please don’t assume your worse than others. Your therapist has most likely seen, heard, and worked with many of the struggles you present to him and or her, and they are ready and wanting to help you heal.

The therapy process is a collaboration between client and therapist

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Don’t float through therapy being led solely by your therapist. Therapy is a mutual working relationship between therapist and client. Be certain to present your personal goals and ambitions to your therapist so he or she can help tailor sessions and assignments to meet those goals.  Remember, there is very little that a therapist hasn’t heard or worked with, so don’t be embarrassed to mention true goals, no matter how odd they may seem to others. That being said, also be sure to share your deepest feelings with your therapist. Working toward goals oftentimes requires a processing of emotions, and who better to process them with than your therapist?

Remember your strengths

During and after each session, and especially during and after a particularly hard session, be sure to remind yourself that you have strengths. The role of a therapist is to break down our defenses and destroy our façade to help us build a new image and lifestyle. As such, there will be some sessions that feel overwhelming, leaving us in a sense of guilt or shame. If that happens, remember that you are processing your faults to improve your strengths. List your strengths for yourself to increase a much needed self esteem and remember that more personal strengths will come as self-improvement continues.

You are worth seeking support. Your wellbeing is important and the foundation for your relationships.

worthy

Finally, remember that you are worth it. Despite all the faults you may admit and process with your therapist, remember that you are worth improvement and happiness. Remind yourself that we all have faults and we all have secrets, but there Is not one person who is unworthy of love and care. Therapy may feel daunting and uncomfortable, but pushing through that to achieve the life you deserve is worth all the work.