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What to Expect When Going to Therapy for the First Time

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Going to therapy for the first time can feel unfamiliar and scary, leaving many unsure of where to begin. Without proper guidance, this unfamiliarity can hinder your confidence and deter you from seeking the help you need. We can help outline how to find a therapist, prepare for your first session, and understand what typically occurs in therapy sessions, equipping you with the knowledge to approach therapy with confidence.

Begin your mental health journey with knowledge and confidence. A study by the American Psychological Association found that approximately 75% of people who undergo psychotherapy experience relief and improved well-being, showing the benefits of therapy.

By starting therapy, you tackle current mental health issues and nurture lasting personal development and well-being, a valuable investment in your future. This guide will give you the tools and insights to begin therapy confidently.

Key Takeaways of Going to Therapy for the First Time

  • Starting therapy is a step towards self-improvement, and it’s normal to have doubts, but focusing on potential benefits is important.
  • Finding the right therapist involves researching their credentials and specialties, and it’s important to set realistic expectations and prepare questions for your initial session.
  • Therapeutic success depends on building rapport, being honest with your therapist, and post-session reflection, with online therapy offering a flexible option.

The Journey to Your First Therapy Session

Deciding to start therapy is the first step towards addressing personal challenges and embracing self-care. By going to therapy, you’re putting your well-being first.

Taking the step to begin therapy shows that you recognize that you deserve this time, which can create a more positive view of yourself. In therapy, you learn to understand and handle your emotions healthily. This new understanding can help you in every part of your life.

This step can also be comforting, especially if you’ve dealt with your problems alone. It’s a chance to share your struggles with someone trained to help you get through them.

Opening up to a therapist can be freeing, and it’s often the first move toward feeling better. It’s okay to have mixed emotions about starting therapy, but remember that it’s a positive move toward a happier, healthier you. Though it may seem intimidating, this decision shows a level of self-investment. It’s normal to feel nervous about things like:

  • feeling uneasy sharing personal matters
  • financial cost
  • limited time
  • trying before without success

Focusing on the benefits of therapy and the promise of improved mental well-being can help overcome these initial fears.

In this journey of starting therapy, you may find it helpful to know that the first therapy sessions are just a look at the issue. They allow you to get to know your potential therapist, understand their approach, and establish a connection. As you prepare for your first therapy appointment, remember that your comfort and trust in your therapist are important to successful therapy.

Identifying Your Needs

People seek therapy for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety
  • Traumatic events leading to PTSD
  • Relationship issues
  • Grief
  • Serious illnesses
  • Day-to-day stress
  • Life changes, such as starting a business or becoming a parent

But what if you’re unsure about the reasons for seeking therapy? That’s okay too! Acknowledging this is part of the process, which can help bring things into focus.

It might be time to consider therapy if you’re noticing things like:

  • Constant feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Constant tiredness
  • Feeling easily annoyed or having a short temper
  • Agoraphobia
  • Anxious thoughts
  • Feeling uninterested or not excited about things
  • Hopelessness
  • Avoiding social situations

It’s worth considering therapy, especially when these issues cause stress and affect your daily life.

Therapy is a practical step towards self-improvement. It’s an opportunity to develop better communication skills, strengthen relationships, and work towards personal goals.

Researching Therapists

Choosing the right therapist is a big step in the therapeutic process. Therapists typically have different professional backgrounds in the mental health field, and it’s important to find one with the skills that match your specific needs.

A therapist’s ability to create a safe and supportive environment can influence your therapy experience. Scheduling initial consultations with multiple therapists can help you make a well-informed decision. This will give you a sense of their personality and approach, helping you choose someone to build a strong therapeutic relationship with.

Choosing the right mental health professional is necessary for a positive and successful therapy experience. Here are some types of professionals you may consider:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioners
  • Counselors
  • Clinical social workers

Each mental health professional has different specialties for different mental health needs. When looking for a therapist, it is important to consider their credentials and read online reviews to see if their skills match your needs. Mental health professionals come from diverse backgrounds and offer multiple services.

You can kickstart your therapist search with Clarity Ease, a resource specifically designed to streamline the process of finding the right healthcare professional for you. Clarity Ease is invaluable for connecting you with therapists with different specialties, catering to various needs and backgrounds.

Preparing for Your Initial Appointment

The first therapy session, or the first appointment, can be a mix of excitement and nerves. To make the transition smoother, consider setting aside a day with a lighter schedule to have your therapy session. This gives you more time to prepare mentally and physically for the session.

Learn about the specific therapy you will receive and be ready for your first session. To maximize the value of your initial session, try some relaxation techniques beforehand, such as deep breathing or meditation. These practices can help reduce anxiety and allow you to enter the session with a clearer mind, making it easier to open up and participate in the therapeutic process.

Before your first therapy appointment, it’s a good idea to:

  • Write down any concerns, fears, or problems you would like to discuss
  • Talk with your therapist about what you’re hoping to get out of therapy
  • Dress comfortably to feel relaxed
  • Allow yourself time to sit with your thoughts and feelings before the session
  • Turn off your cell phone and put any work away before your session

Setting Realistic Expectations

Therapy requires time and effort. While it’s natural to hope for results immediately, it’s important to understand that healing takes time. Having manageable goals and understanding that therapy is a process can help create a coping plan for potential challenges.

Unrealistic expectations lead to hurt feelings and affect the ability to plan for self-care. It is good practice to set realistic goals for therapy and work with your therapist to develop a plan to reach them. Remember, every step forward, no matter how small, is progress.

Creating a List of Questions

Feeling unsure when you’re about to have your first therapy session is natural. To help reduce this feeling, develop a list of questions to ask your therapist.

You might want to know about their treatment methods and whether they like to take the lead or let you guide the sessions. Understanding how your therapist works will give you a clearer picture of what to expect moving forward.

When choosing a therapist, consider asking the following questions:

  1. How long have you been practicing?
  2. Have you had clients with similar problems to mine?
  3. How often and how long should I expect my sessions to be?
  4. What are the costs of therapy?
  5. Do you offer any sliding-scale options for payment?

The topic of “how many sessions” and pricing will help you decide which therapist best fits you. It’s worth knowing that the cost of therapy sessions in the United States can differ, with average prices starting from $100 to $200 per session, depending on the therapist’s location and credentials.

It’s helpful to have your questions to help create a comfortable therapeutic relationship and to openly discuss any worries or concerns about the treatment you’re curious about.

Navigating Your First Therapy Session

Your first therapy session will include providing information to your therapist. Typical therapy sessions last 45-60 minutes, but the first also called an intake session, may take longer to complete the questionnaires or forms. During this therapy session, therapists begin by getting informed consent, reviewing treatment processes, and explaining their approach.

Therapists will ask questions about your background, family history, and medical details to understand your needs better and create a treatment plan. Therapy offers a safe place to learn about feelings and coping mechanisms. It’s an opportunity to build rapport with your therapist and work towards your goals.

Building Rapport with Your Therapist

Building a strong rapport with your therapist is important for successful therapy. Having a therapist who listens and understands is necessary to form a trusting relationship. Over time, as you and your therapist get to know each other better, this sense of connection strengthens, helping in the success of your therapy.

A strong rapport allows you to talk about difficult memories and feelings, which helps you work through issues and better understand them. Therapeutic success is better when you and your therapist work together. Feedback is necessary to build rapport, as it shows the therapist that you are comfortable and involved in your healing.

Being Honest and Open

Honesty and openness are important in therapy. This means being open about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Being open and honest helps build trust with your therapist and allows them to provide the best possible help. Remember, your therapist is there to support you, not to judge you.

Feeling nervous or unsure about sharing personal details is natural, especially during your first therapy sessions. This is a necessary part of the therapeutic process. The more open and honest you are, the more you’ll benefit from therapy.

Post-Session Reflection and Evaluation

After your first therapy session, it’s important to take some time to reflect. Look at whether you felt heard, understood, and accepted during the session and if the therapist provided a comfortable space for open expression. Consider if the therapist’s techniques are practical and if their questions make you think in a way that could help you progress.

After your session, consider the advice or exercises your therapist gave you. Reflect on how you felt during the session and consider if there’s anything new you’d like to discuss next time. This reflection is a valuable tool for personal growth, helping you pinpoint what’s working and what might need more attention as you continue your therapy journey.

Assessing Your Comfort Level

After your first counseling session, you might want to evaluate how comfortable you feel. Did you feel an emotional connection or a sense of trust with the therapist? Did the therapist’s behavior and communication style make you feel at peace? These are important to consider when assessing your comfort level.

The therapist’s office environment and the session’s structure can also add to your comfort level. When you share your thoughts about your therapy, it helps improve the sessions. Your feedback lets your therapist know what’s working for you and what might need to change.

Planning for Future Sessions

As you prepare for future therapy sessions, consider your therapy goals. Does the therapist seem committed to helping you reach these goals in future sessions? A treatment plan may be made based on your goals, which is a process that might require health insurance authorization.

You might also want to determine if the therapist assigns homework or reading outside sessions. This can help you progress in therapy outside of the office. Therapy is a journey, and planning for future sessions is an important part of that journey.

Online Therapy: A Convenient Alternative

Online therapy, teletherapy, or e-therapy has become a handy option to traditional therapy. This allows clients to receive mental health treatment from licensed therapists using the Internet on different devices. Online therapy provides the flexibility of scheduling sessions at convenient times and can often be more affordable due to reduced overhead costs for therapists.

Online therapy is particularly beneficial for people living in rural or remote areas who may not have easy access to mental health services. By offering a more approachable way to get support, online therapy helps reduce the negative beliefs about mental health care, making it accessible to more people.

Finding an Online Therapist

Choosing an online therapist includes the same careful consideration as choosing a traditional therapist. It’s important to make sure that they are licensed and qualified. Many states now require insurance providers to cover online therapy similarly to traditional therapy sessions, so it’s important to check with your insurance company about coverage for e-therapy treatments.

You can confirm an online therapist’s credit by checking if they are licensed in your state and looking them up in the state’s online directory of licensed professionals. Ensure the online therapy platform or application is secure and complies with HIPAA to keep your personal information and therapy sessions confidential.

Tips for Successful Online Therapy Sessions

For a positive experience with online therapy, it’s important to have a dedicated space that is quiet and private. This will allow you to communicate openly and without interruption. It’s also important to use secure methods of communication with your therapist to maintain your privacy and keep your personal information safe.

A reliable internet connection and equipment are important for online therapy sessions. Here are some tips to prevent technical issues and ensure a smooth experience:

  1. Make sure you have a computer with a webcam or a smartphone.
  2. Test the video conferencing software before the therapy session.
  3. Find a quiet and private space for the session.
  4. Use headphones to improve audio quality.
  5. Minimize distractions by closing unnecessary applications or tabs.

Remember, developing a strong therapeutic rapport is also important in online therapy.


Starting therapy is a brave step towards improving your mental health. It’s about understanding what you need help with, searching for a suitable therapist, and getting ready for your first appointment. In this first session, you’ll talk about your life and begin to form a bond with your therapist. The success of therapy depends on this connection and your openness. Whether you choose face-to-face or online sessions, taking action to work on your mental health is a positive step towards a happier life.

To enhance your therapy journey, it’s helpful to know that a good therapist will listen without judgment, help you see things from different perspectives, and prepare you with strategies to handle challenges. Successful therapy is a team effort, and your engagement is important for making improvements and personal growth.

What should I tell my therapist first?

Tell your therapist about your goals for therapy and discuss your reasons for seeking help. Share what’s been going on in your life that you’d like to work on, and your therapist will guide you from there.

Is therapy awkward at first?

Yes, therapy can feel awkward for many people, but it’s natural to feel that way, and it becomes more comfortable as you continue. Therapy is a safe space to work through that discomfort and build a strong therapeutic relationship.

How can I overcome my initial fears about starting therapy?

It’s normal to feel nervous about starting therapy. Acknowledge your feelings and remember that the initial sessions are a chance to get to know your therapist, which can help ease your fears.

How do I know if a therapist is right for me?

To know if a therapist is right for you, consider their credentials, expertise, and your comfort level with them. Their communication style must make you feel at ease.

What should I look for in an online therapist?

Look for a licensed and qualified online therapist whose insurance covers services. Verify that the online therapy platform is secure and HIPAA-compliant.