You did it! You took the plunge, did your research, chose a therapist and it’s nearly time for your first appointment. How can you best use the time you have?
At your first session, your therapist will chat with you about two main things – “Who” as in who you are, who you are involved with, who is close to you, challenging for you, etc; and “What” meaning what do you want to change, what have you tried so far, what does it look like when you have what you want.
It’s a good idea to jot down a few notes about both of these general categories – your session time will fly by. While a good therapist will guide the discussion, there is probably a lot you want to cover. It’s in your best interest to have those little reminders.
If your situation is more acute or a crisis, it’s especially important to write out notes. The anxiety produced by emergencies can make it hard to track your own thoughts, and you need to give your therapist all the pertinent information.
If you are using telehealth, prepare for your session by shutting down all other windows on your device and turning off streaming services. Set yourself up where you can be comfortable and make sure you have privacy. I always offer my clients tea or water when I see them in the office, but recommend you do the same for yourself at home. Make sure roommates, kids, partners, etc know not to disturb you (or to turn on streaming unless you know for sure your internet connection is strong enough to support that while you are in session). Earphones or buds are good for privacy and minimize that “echo” effect when you are talking and listening.
If you are seeing your therapist in an office, make sure you know exactly where it is and what the parking situation is. You don’t want to arrive late, flustered and out of breath because you couldn’t find the right address (google maps is NOT always right!) or had to scramble for parking.
If, as the session progresses, you have questions about therapy or the therapist, speak up. Therapists don’t want to make the session about themselves and won’t answer super personal questions, but if there’s something you want to know about their experience, education, background, etc ask away. If your question is intrusive, a good therapist will kindly let you know.
At the end of session (and some folks find during session) it’s helpful to write yourself a few notes about insights, thoughts you want to return to, or ideas you have about what else needs to be discussed. Your therapist may also want you to do some at-home work, or have some resources for you to look into so it’s good to write those down to. You might remember, but why take the chance?
When you leave your session, try to do some transition activity. Go for a walk if you can, take some deep breaths, just don’t jump right back into life. You will likely feel some mixture of fatigue, relief and general emotionality. That’s totally normal. However, while you spent an hour in therapy the rest of the world kept buzzing along, so you need to gently ease in.
Therapy is great investment, so use it to the fullest by being ready for your session, in person or online, and allowing yourself to absorb as much as possible during your time there. Protect your post-therapy state and allow yourself time to process. And congratulations – you made a great move by choosing growth!