Your First Session: What to Expect

Does the thought of telling someone your deepest secrets, fears and disappointments or even your greatest hopes and dreams make you nervous?

You're not alone. Lots of people feel anxious about going to psychotherapy for the first time. That's why the more prepared you are when we meet, the more in control you're likely to feel, and the more useful the therapy will be in the long run.

Professional ethics rules are one reason the relationship between clinician and client is unique. Privacy boundaries and confidentiality make it a place where you can and should talk about things you just don't talk about anywhere else. Expect a private space where you can explain openly and honestly what you're worried about and what you want to change.

Therapy is an incredibly personal experience that's different for each and every patient and counselor. Although treatment approaches vary depending on the counselor, the initial appointment often follows a general pattern:

  • We start with basic paperwork, fees, insurance and how to take care of any costs that insurance doesn't cover.
  • We will decide when and how often to come for sessions, and discuss cancellation, scheduling and other ACPS policies.
  • We will also cover how to connect in a crisis situation.

Starting with these neutral tasks gives people a chance to feel comfortable before they begin talking about personal issues.

Getting personal
My primary objective during the initial meeting is similar for each client -- What is this person coming to me for? Am I going to be able to help them? Are they in the right place? The more clients can say about themselves, what they want, what they're experiencing, what's bothering them, the better.

We may talk about any number of topics connected to what brought you to therapy, including specific symptoms, family background, relationships, current living and career situations, and medical history.

Once you've made it through our first meeting, you'll still have a fair amount of reflecting to do. What kind of vibe did you get from our session? You may not feel all warm and fuzzy after this first session, but you should feel like you can talk safely about anything. Did you find yourself spurred to reflect on your situation?

It can be tough to tell exactly how you feel after just one meeting. So, even if you're not entirely at ease, consider giving it some more time to truly determine whether or not this is the right match.

One key to successful therapy is remaining open during the first session and beyond. Let the psychotherapy process go where it may -- even if that's somewhere you don't expect.

In addition, stay realistic. A person coming into therapy for the first time can expect the first session to get them started. But they can't expect it to solve all of their problems because any therapy takes time. As much as we'd all like it to be, it's not a quick fix. This is just the beginning of what may be a long journey.

Our chief mission at Atlanta Consulting and Psychological Services, LLC (ACPS) is to assist others in re-examining their life perspectives, to learn from past experiences and utilize them to equip clients with the tools to lead better, healthier lifestyles.