New to therapy? 6 tips for new clients

Taking your first steps into therapy can be an incredibly daunting experience. During my work as a psychodynamic psychotherapist, clients have often asked me what they should do to get the best out of their therapy sessions. How should they act in a session? What should they talk about? What happens if they feel overwhelmed? Read on for my top tips for new clients starting therapy.


Six tips for new clients

1. Trust your instincts

Clients are often keen to act in the ‘right’ way when they come to therapy, but in reality, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to be. What works for one person may not work for another. It is the therapist's job to explore the unique behaviour and thought processes that each individual client brings. Therefore I would recommend that you behave in a way that feels right and authentic for you.

2. Ask questions

During your first session, your therapist will discuss the terms and conditions of the therapy with you. This will include the time and length of your sessions, number of sessions offered, confidentiality, record keeping, holiday arrangements, fees payable etc. If you are not clear on any of these factors, please do ask your therapist. It is important that you fully understand what to expect from your therapy.  

3. Speak freely about whatever is on your mind

In my experience, clients can be quick to dismiss the content they bring. They may say “I have no idea why I’m rambling on about this”, or “you don’t want to hear about that”. Please feel reassured that your therapist will be interested in everything that you say. Some clients like to attend each session with a specific topic to explore and while this can be very useful, often the most valuable pieces of work are done when the client speaks spontaneously about whatever is on their mind.

4. Be honest about the hard times

Counselling can bring up some very complex emotions that can be difficult to process. You may be recalling traumatic details from your childhood; you may be talking about a difficult relationship, or you may find that feelings that you have repressed for a long time are now coming to the surface. When this happens, it can be tempting to miss counselling sessions in order to avoid this pain. If you find this happening, I would advise that you talk to your therapist. Your therapist will want to support you through these difficult emotions and ensure that you are moving at the right pace for you.

5. Don’t be afraid to challenge your therapist

The relationship between the client and therapist is a key element in evoking therapeutic change. In the early days of therapy, it can be quite common for clients to see their therapist as the ‘expert’ and therefore the client agrees with everything they say. However, therapy is a collaborative process and your therapist will both welcome and encourage discussion and debate. The relationship you have with your therapist could prove to be a valuable topic to explore, as it may give you helpful insight into other relationships in your life.  

6. Ensure the type of therapy is right for you

There are many different types of therapy and it can be confusing to know what may be helpful until you try it. If you have attended a few sessions and really don’t feel that this is working for you, don’t be afraid to try something else. The ‘fit’ between the client and therapist is very important. If you don’t feel that your therapist is the right person to work with you, then be honest and raise this. Your therapist should be able to help you find an alternative person to work with.

There is no doubt that attending therapy is a big step and you may feel nervous about it. I hope that my tips about how to use your therapy sessions effectively have given you some new perspectives and encouraged you to take the next step and find a therapist.

If you are interested in finding out more about me, please visit my profile on Counselling Directory, or visit my website I am currently accepting new clients, both face-to-face and remotely.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG23 8PY
Written by Isobel Brooks, BSc, MSc, MBACP (Accred)
Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG23 8PY

Isobel Brooks is a Psychodynamic Psychotherapist working in private practice in Basingstoke. ( She offers both face to face and online sessions. Isobel also works part-time for Basingstoke Counselling Service.

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