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What to expect when seeing a therapist for the first time

Posted on Sep 11, 2017

Although therapy is helpful, many are not aware of what happens or what to expect for their first time in session! (image source)

        You are considering going to therapy for the first time. You have been stuck on a few issues in your life lately, and you have heard that seeing a therapist can be helpful in overcoming them. At the same time, you are also worried on what is going to happen. Is there anything that you need to prepare for? How long does it take for you to feel better? As mental health professionals, we at TheHelpTalk often receive these questions, and will now address your concerns once and for all!

         You first begin your therapy sessions by filling in some contact details and to be briefed regarding privacy and confidentiality. Once all administrative details are ironed out, the therapist will then proceed to guide you throughout the hour, by exploring some details of the issues that you are facing and relevant background information, such as family, education, employment, or developmental history. All this information is important for the therapist to arrive at an accurate understanding of you, and how best to help you. It is normal to feel anxious or out of place when sharing personal details about your life with the therapist, but you will soon find that the therapist’s respectful, open and accepting attitude to what you say in session will slowly make you feel at ease. As therapists had undergone extensive training on how to communicate effectively and to listen emphatically, you will find that as more sessions progress, you will become more and more comfortable in exploring the issues that you face in your life and reap the full benefits of therapy.


The first session is called the "intake interview", as the therapist would need to know more about your background in order to help you better (image source).


            In short-term therapy, clients can usually expect to experience benefits a few sessions in, and would be able to stop therapy within the range of 6-12 sessions. In managing long-standing issues, more sessions may be required. Traditionally, therapy sessions are conducted once a week. It is also usual for clients to seek consultation once in two weeks, a month, or when they feel they need one. This is usually due to other considerations, such as budget constraints or work commitments. The client oftentimes has freedom and choice in determining when their next session would be. This also depends on how comfortable the client feels in working with the therapist. Feel free to discuss and come to an agreement with your therapist regarding scheduling of sessions, or to also consider meeting a different therapist instead if you believe that others may be more suited to your needs.

            After the first session is done, the following sessions are usually focused on improving your mental health through therapeutic methods. What the therapist would be discussing with you would differ based on their training and what best fits your situation. What is done during sessions could involve developing skills (i.e. how to manage anxiety, how to set goals, improving communication skills, etc.), resolving painful memories, developing awareness of and managing your thoughts, and the list goes on. Clients usually report that they are better able to manage their lives through the skills that they have learned in therapy, and to enjoy a better quality of life when they are able to resolve the emotional concerns that they have been keeping to themselves.

            The client and therapist would usually come into agreement on when is best to end therapy. This usually happens when clients feel that they are able to begin working on their life independently, and are satisfied with the outcome that has been achieved in therapy. The frequency of therapy sessions can be reduced over time, and eventually, the client can end sessions. This happens with the option of returning for additional sessions if they choose to do so at some point in the future.

            As you are going through therapy, it is important to note that the trust that you develop with your therapist, and the feeling that you are “working as a team” is important in bringing positive change to your mental health. It is equally important for you to feel respected, safe, and valued as a person when you are in session as much as you are learning new skills in managing the difficulties that you face. In fact, the trust and relationship between therapist and client is so important in therapy, that it is considered one of the main aspects of why therapy works!

            We hope that this article clarifies your doubts on the process of attending therapy, and motivates you to take your first step in improving your quality of life. We wish you fruitful therapy sessions ahead, and all the best in your journey toward positive mental health!


Noted: TheHelpTalk offers online mental health services by fully qualified mental health professionals. As opposed to once-a-week appointments, we offer daily mental health services – at a fraction of the cost! Thinking of starting your journey of self-improvement? It is as simple as a click of a button, here at TheHelpTalk.

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