First Time in Therapy

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I think I have OCD, depression, and an anxiety disorder. I’m 41. I am going to see a therapist for the first time this week and I am kind of nervous. I don’t know how much to tell in the first visit. Should I tell her what I want to accomplish in my sessions? And how can I tell if this counselor will be right for me? Thanks!

A: Going to a therapist for the first time can feel like a huge leap of faith. I’m pleased that you are reaching for some help at this stage of your life with what, I’m sure, must be challenging feelings and behaviors. I’m guessing that those feelings have been with you for some time. From my point of view, however long you’ve suffered with depression and anxiety is quite long enough. Give yourself credit for taking steps to do something about it.

Please don’t worry about what to say or do. It may be your first time with the therapist but it’s not the first time the therapist has seen a client. She or he will know what to do. Usually a session starts with a little paperwork (particularly if you want to bill your insurance) and some small talk – just to help you get comfortable. Then the therapist is likely to ask an open-ended question like, “What brings you to see me?” Simply share how you’ve been feeling and what led you to finally call for a little help. Your therapist will help you tell your story by asking some questions and making some comments.

As far as knowing whether the therapist is right for you: Please trust your instincts. If you feel reasonably comfortable and think you can talk to this person, you probably can. If, for any reason, you have a negative gut reaction, trust that as well. If you feel judged or diminished in any way, you’ll be too on guard to talk as openly and freely with the therapist as you need to for therapy to be helpful. The relationship is central to the success of treatment. It’s perfectly okay for you to see a few therapists for a first session and to choose the person you feel most comfortable with.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Apr 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). First Time in Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/04/08/first-time-in-therapy/