Deciding to go to therapy for the first time is a big deal! You may be really excited, or you may be super nervous. Both reactions are completely normal and valid. For a lot of people, the idea of therapy is scary, because they have no idea what to expect. Let’s be honest, a lot of people don’t talk about their therapy experience. So for many of us, it seems like a bit of a mystery. For those who are considering making an appointment or waiting for your first session, let’s talk about what you should know and expect!

1. It’s okay to be nervous!

It’s completely natural to be apprehensive about trying something new and unknown, whatever that may be. Especially therapy, where you’ll likely be discussing very vulnerable topics with a stranger you just met. Who wouldn’t be nervous?! Instead of fighting the anxiety, maybe give yourself permission to be nervous. And don’t be afraid to tell your therapist if that’s the case! Spoiler alert: sometimes we get nervous too! We’re happy to process that with you and discuss any concerns you might have.

2. The first therapist you see might not be a good fit. That’s okay.

Yep! Just like every client is different, every therapist is different. We’re humans, and we all do things a little differently. Each therapist has a different theoretical orientation, which is just a fancy way of saying that we all have different theories of how problems develop and how to best treat them. If you had a not-so-great experience with your last therapist or if you’re not sure your current therapist is a good fit, you can try someone else! Also, you can be honest with your therapist if it’s not working. The client counselor/relationship is super important. We want you to get the best possible care and have a great experience, even if it’s not with us.

Finding a therapist can seem difficult and confusing. Try searching websites such as Psychology Today and Therapy Den. You can narrow your search based on specific criteria, such as cost, insurance they accept, therapist’s ethnicity, and more. Also, be sure to look at the therapist’s website (if they have one). You can often gather a ton of information about the specific therapist, including the types of clients they see and the issues they often treat. This is a great way to start to understand whether or not that particular therapist will be a good fit for you.

Lastly, many therapists (including everyone at Emma Schmidt & Associates!) offer free consultations. This is another great way to figure out if you and the therapist will be a good match.

3. The first session will likely be a lot of information gathering.

In the first session, we’ll likely spend a lot of time talking about why you decided to come to therapy. We’ll also go over confidentiality and informed consent, and you’ll likely fill out some forms if you haven’t already. You can expect the therapist to ask why you came to see them, why now, and what you’re hoping to get out of therapy. You and the therapist will spend the first few sessions getting to know each other, and maybe start setting or working towards goals you want to achieve.

4. We won’t tell you what to do.

I’ve had first-time clients say that they’ve avoided therapy, because they fear a therapist will tell them to make a major life change, such as quit their job or get a divorce. Most therapists won’t do this. In general, while we can give you information, insight, exercises, techniques, and strategies to try, we can’t make decisions for you. Instead, we’ll help you explore your options and process through them. We want to support and encourage you so that you can make an informed decision, whatever that may be. We’re here to empower you, not control you.

5. We’re not here to judge you.

It’s true! We get that life is hard, things happen, and people make mistakes. Most therapists get into this field because they want to help others, not judge them. The field of counseling was largely built on the concept of unconditional positive regard, which means the therapist supports and accepts the client, regardless of what they do or say. Many therapists still try to operate on this principle. Regardless, the last thing we want to do is make you feel judged or shamed. Most of us are serious about creating a space in which clients feel safe and accepted.

If you’re considering therapy for the first time, I want to encourage you to give it a try! And if the first session (or first therapist) isn’t perfect, don’t get discouraged. It takes some time for therapy to work. If you’d like to set up an appointment with someone at Emma Schmidt & Associates, or if you have questions for us about how we do therapy, please don’t hesitate to reach out!