What Does Starting Therapy Involve?

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

There are many types of talk therapy on offer nowadays. But most (if not all) start the same way, regardless if they are carried out in-person or over Skype.

What do you need to know about starting therapy?

So what are the key things to know when starting therapy?

1. First, and most importantly.

The most important thing about starting therapy for the first time is that you choose to be there. Therapy is not an instant miracle. It requires hard work and commitment. So if you are there because someone else asked you to go, or you feel you ‘should’ go to make someone else happy….it might be a waste of your time and money. Come back when you are ready.

2. Timing matters.

Show up to your first appointment on time. Otherwise you might not have enough time to understand if the therapist is a good fit for you, or how the type of therapy they offer can help you. Most therapists will not go overtime if you are late. They’ll have another client to see. And they are there to model good boundaries to you, which means respecting their own time and energy.

3. Share what has bought you to therapy (but it's okay to not be sure).

Don't worry if you are not exactly sure why you need therapy. It might be that you have an exact issue, or issues, that are bothering you. Or maybe you just don’t feel yourself lately and you don’t know why. It might even be that everyone keeps telling you you need therapy and you are curious if it's true. Just be honest with your therapist, and don’t worry about what it sounds like. A therapist is not there to judge or criticise, but to listen and empathise. A good therapist knows how to ask the right questions to help, and can also learn how you are feeling from your body language and behaviour in the therapy room.

4. Be yourself.

It’s important in a first therapy session to not try and impress the therapist, or get them to ‘like’ you. A first therapy session is about seeing if you and the therapist might be a good fit to work together. This is only going to be apparent if you are as much yourself as the strange setup allows. Remember, therapists are used to people being nervous, sad, or upset. They don’t criticise you. Being your true self also means your therapist can understand your issues more quickly.

5. Answer questions to the best of your ability.

Try to answer your therapist's questions as honestly as possible. At a first therapy session, your therapist will likely ask you about your life and family history. It’s not a test. They are just trying to get to know you. If you need to take time, take it. Sitting in silence and reflecting is also a part of therapy. And if you aren't sure of the answer, just say so.

6. Don't be afraid to ask any questions you might have.

Your first session is a chance to have all your worries and uncertainties about therapy addressed. You can ask your therapist about his or her training, their experience, if they are registered, and also about what led them to be a therapist. Don't feel shy. You are paying for this experience, and it's your right to ask questions.

7. Listen carefully to the practicalities that will be outlined.

You will be given clear parameters around payment, scheduling, and cancellation policies. If you don’t understand anything the therapist says, ask them to clarify. Maintaining these sorts of boundaries are an important part of developing trust between you and your therapist, so you need to be clear on all this.

To summarise...

In summary, a first therapy session is there to:

  • help you and the therapist decide if you can work together
  • clarify what issues you might like to work on
  • determine if/how the therapist has the right skills to help you
  • allow you to ask any questions you might have about the therapist and type of therapy
  • give you a clear understanding of the therapist’s ways of working and admin rules.

Remember, it’s your choice.

If you really don’t think the therapist is a fit, then you are not obliged to take another appointment. That said, it’s a good idea to give yourself time to think about it. Therapy can be a bit like dating, and sometimes it takes a few sessions to decide. Four meetings in total is a good idea, providing an assessment and three sessions to properly work together and get to know each other.

If you do decide not to return, remember to give your therapist notice within the cancellation window, or you will still have to pay for the next appointment.

Ready to book your perfect therapist? Go use our easy booking tool and get started.

Andrea M. Darcy is a popular mental health writer and a therapy consultant, helping people understand the different types of therapy and plan their perfect therapy journey.

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