The hardest part of psychotherapy is often getting started. The idea of being vulnerable with a stranger can be intimidating, and it’s not necessarily much consolation that the stranger is a professional.
Besides, maybe you’re just not a therapy kind of person. That’s what I thought, anyway, when I first started considering booking an appointment with a therapist.
But I felt like I was stuck and like I was running out of options for getting unstuck, so I went ahead and did it anyway. It took a while, but I reached a point where I wanted answers and wanted things to get better bad enough that I was able to clear what was for me the highest hurdle of the entire therapy process: recognizing that I could benefit from psychotherapy in the first place.
My sense of victory was short-lived, though, because I soon encountered my second-highest hurdle in the therapy process: the first appointment.
For me, appointment number one was stressful because I had so much stuff in my head about why I was here, but I wasn’t sure how to organize it and explain it. It turns out there was no need to be so worried because, in a sense, I didn’t even know why I was there yet, so of course I couldn’t explain it: ultimately, one of the main consequences of me showing up to therapy would be getting diagnosed with ADHD, something I didn’t know at the time.
So it’s important to keep in mind that your first session is only a starting point. Don’t be disappointed if you walk away without having obtained any brilliant insights into your own psyche.
However, some starting points are still better than others. It’s a good idea before your first therapy session to reflect in as much detail as possible on why you’re trying therapy and what you hope to gain from the experience. The more you go in ready to communicate these things in concrete terms, the sooner you’ll be able to home in on the things that are important to you.
In this Ask the Therapist video, Marie Hartwell-Walker and Daniel J. Tomasulo give tips on what to expect from your first therapy session and how to prepare ahead of time. Watch it below, and see the Psych Central YouTube channel for more videos about making the most of psychotherapy.