What will happen in my first therapy session?

Seeking therapy can be pivotal to emotional well-being, personal growth, and healing. It's a decision that requires courage, and for many, the first therapy session can be shrouded in uncertainty and apprehension. What will happen? How do I prepare? Will I be judged? In this article, we'll shed light on the often mysterious world of therapy, offering insights into what you can expect during your inaugural session.


From choosing the right therapist to understanding the therapist's approach and addressing your concerns, this guide aims to demystify the process and empower you to take that crucial step toward healing and self-discovery. Welcome to the journey of your first therapy session.

The first encounter: What to expect

Your initial therapy session, often referred to as the intake session, is a vital opportunity for you and your therapist to get to know each other.

Here's what you can generally expect:

  • Building rapport: Your therapist will work to create a safe, non-judgmental environment. They'll introduce themselves, explain the process, and give you a chance to share what prompted you to seek therapy.
  • Information gathering: Expect questions about your history, background, and life circumstances. This information helps the therapist understand your unique situation and tailor their approach accordingly.
  • Confidentiality discussion: Your therapist will discuss the limits of confidentiality. They will explain the circumstances under which they might need to share information, such as if you express the intent to harm yourself or others.
  • Open conversation: The first session is your space to express your concerns, fears, and goals. Don't worry about saying the "right" things; your honesty is what matters most.
  • Therapist's approach: Your therapist may briefly describe their therapeutic approach and how it aligns with your needs. If you have questions about their methods, this is the time to ask.

Remember, the first session is about establishing a foundation for your therapeutic journey. It's okay if you don't cover everything in one go. The therapist's main objective is to make you feel comfortable, understood, and on the path to healing.

Discussing your concerns and goals

During your first therapy session, one of the central components is addressing your concerns and outlining your therapeutic goals. Here's what to keep in mind:

  • Express yourself: Be open and honest about your challenges, the emotions you're experiencing, and any specific issues you want to tackle. Your therapist is there to listen without judgment.
  • Clarify your objectives: Share what you hope to achieve through therapy. Whether it's managing stress, improving relationships, or overcoming a specific issue, clearly define your goals. This helps your therapist tailor their approach to your needs.
  • Realistic expectations: Therapy is a process, and significant changes often take time. Your therapist will work with you to set achievable and realistic expectations for your journey.
  • Collaboration: Therapy is a collaborative effort. Your therapist will help you identify and work toward your goals, but your active participation and commitment are essential.
  • Flexibility: Your goals and concerns may evolve throughout your therapy journey. Adjusting them as you progress and gaining insight into your challenges is perfectly normal.

You lay the foundation for a productive and effective therapeutic relationship by openly discussing your concerns and setting achievable goals.

The therapist's approach

Therapists employ various approaches and techniques to help their clients, and this might be discussed in your first therapy session. Here's what to know:

  • Therapeutic styles: Therapists use different therapeutic styles and techniques based on their training and your specific needs. They may utilise cognitive-behavioural therapy, psychoanalytic, humanistic, or other approaches.
  • Tailored to you: The therapist's approach is customised to your concerns and goals. They will choose methods that best address your individual situation.
  • Collaboration: Therapy is a collaborative effort; your therapist will work with you to determine the best path forward. They value your input and feedback throughout the process.
  • Comfort and safety: The therapist's primary goal is to create a safe and comfortable space for you. They will be attentive to your emotional well-being and ensure you feel heard and understood.
  • Questions welcome: Don't hesitate to ask your therapist about their approach and how it will benefit you. Understanding their methods can help you feel more at ease during therapy.

Remember that while your therapist's approach may be discussed during the first session, the focus is on building trust and understanding. Over time, you'll work together to find the most effective personal growth and healing strategies.

Questions to ask your therapist

Asking the right questions in your first therapy session can help you feel more informed and comfortable. Consider these questions:

  • Can you explain your approach to therapy? Understanding the therapist's methods can give insight into what to expect from the sessions.
  • How can I contact you between sessions? It's important to know the therapist's policies on communication, especially in times of crisis or urgent need.
  • What are your qualifications and experience? Inquire about their credentials, expertise, and experience in addressing your concerns.
  • What do you expect from me as a client? Knowing your therapist's expectations regarding involvement and commitment can help you prepare.
  • How will we measure progress? Discussing the measurement of your progress can give you a sense of the therapeutic journey's direction.
  • What is the confidentiality policy? Understand the therapist's commitment to keeping your sessions confidential and any legal or ethical exceptions.
  • What is the session duration and frequency? Clarify the logistics of your therapy sessions, including how often they'll occur and their duration.
  • How can I prepare for our sessions? Seek guidance on how to make the most of your therapy and prepare for each session effectively.

These questions can foster open communication, build trust, and ensure that you and your therapist are on the same page as you embark on your therapy journey.

Addressing any concerns

Before your first therapy session, it's common to have concerns and anxieties. Here's how to address them:

  • Stigma and judgment: Seeking therapy is a courageous step, not a sign of weakness. Therapists are trained to provide support and guidance without judgment.
  • Privacy: Your therapist is bound by strict confidentiality rules. Any information you share during sessions is generally kept confidential, except in specific situations the therapist will explain.
  • Vulnerability: Therapy often involves opening up about personal struggles. Remember that vulnerability is a strength; through this honesty, growth and healing can occur.
  • First session anxiety: Feeling nervous about the first session is natural. Take a deep breath, remind yourself why you're seeking therapy, and trust that your therapist is there to help and support you.
  • Therapeutic fit: If you don't feel a good connection with your therapist, exploring other options is okay. Finding the right fit is crucial for the effectiveness of therapy.
  • Progress and change: Understand that progress in therapy can take time. Set realistic expectations for yourself and the process, and be patient with your own growth.

Addressing your concerns is an important part of your therapeutic journey. Your therapist is there to help you navigate these feelings and guide you toward your goals.

The decision to seek therapy is pivotal, often marked by uncertainty and questions. We hope this guide has shed light on what you can expect in your first therapy session and eased any concerns you might have had. The first session begins a journey towards self-discovery, healing, and personal growth. It's a courageous step towards prioritising your mental and emotional well-being.

Your therapist is there to provide support, understanding, and guidance, and the therapeutic relationship is built on trust and collaboration. As you embark on this path, remember that you have the power to shape your therapeutic experience. Your concerns, goals, and progress are central to the process.

We encourage you to take that first step, explore therapy, and embrace the opportunity for positive change in your life. You deserve the support, understanding, and healing that therapy can offer. Your well-being is worth it; this first step is a testament to your strength and resilience.

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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Stroud GL5 & Gloucester GL1
Written by Hope Therapy & Counselling Services
Stroud GL5 & Gloucester GL1

Hope Therapy & Counselling Services are dedicated to providing comprehensive and compassionate mental health and wellbeing support to individuals, couples, and families. Our team of experienced and qualified counsellors & therapists are committed to helping clients navigate life's challenges...

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