It’s normal to feel nervous about seeing a therapist. After all, it takes courage to seek support for your mental well-being. Here are a few tips on what to expect and how to make the most out of your experience. 

Your first appointment

It’s not easy to recognize when you need help with your mental health. In some ways, scheduling the first therapy appointment is the hardest part. Now that you’ve made the commitment, you may want to know how to prepare and what to expect during your first session.

Depending on your goals, your therapist can provide support and guidance through challenges such as stress, life transitions, grief, relationship issues, and trauma. You may also receive treatment from a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner who can prescribe medication interventions to treat certain mental health conditions.

Reasons for therapy

Your therapist will want to know what led you to seek therapy. Take time to identify what concerns you may have. These can include worrisome thoughts and feelings, confusing emotions, or unhealthy behaviors. Consider what stressors are impacting your life.  What goals do you want to accomplish through therapy? Writing down some ideas can help organize your thoughts so that you can communicate them to your therapist.

Prepare questions

This is your opportunity to learn more about your therapist, treatment plan, and progress. Use your therapist as a resource to understand your mental health. You may also have practical questions about office procedures, confidentiality, or how often you will meet for appointments. Consider asking these questions at the start of your appointment so you can better focus during the session.

Be open and honest

It takes courage to be honest with yourself and your therapist. It can be difficult to share intimate details about your life. Know that your therapist is here to help you, not judge you. They want you to succeed and meet your goals. Successful therapy relies on open and honest communication. If you struggle to vocalize difficult thoughts and feelings, ask your therapist for support.

Schedule time to recover

When making your appointment, give yourself time before and after your session to prepare and reflect on the experience. Therapy can be deeply emotional and even exhausting at times. Let your therapist know if you need time at the end of your session to ground yourself before transitioning back to your day.

It’s OK to switch therapists

It is important to develop a trusting relationship with your therapist. Give them a chance. If you don’t like them, try to understand why. Do they not understand you? Are they challenging you to acknowledge difficult truths? Your therapist won’t be offended if they are not a good fit for you. In most cases, they can suggest someone better suited to you. Ultimately, it’s more important to find the right therapist for the best experience.

Know that therapy takes time

Improving your mental health is a journey. It may take a few sessions to feel as if your situation is improving. Most issues are not resolved during the first session. There may be days when you feel little progress is being made or that you have taken steps backwards. Stay consistent, communicate with your therapist, and celebrate each victory as it comes. Be gentle with yourself and know that each step can help you get closer to your goals. Mental wellness is a journey.

Joelle Shipp, LCMHC

Charlotte, NC

Ms. Shipp knows that different seasons of life bring different challenges. She became a mindcare provider in order to support people through those challenges, recognizing that it is helpful to have support during these seasons. Joelle works with people to identify issues, process harmful thought patterns and develop healthy skills in order to gain freedom and build confidence. As a ... Read Full Bio »

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