It’s Normal to Feel Anxious Before Your First Session
Making the decision to see a therapist is a huge step towards improving your mental health. It shows that you are willing to make choices to improve your situation. While going to therapy is beneficial to your mental health, that doesn’t mean you have to be completely comfortable going. Seeing a therapist for the first time can create a lot of anxiety towards therapy in general, especially if you have no experience interacting with a therapist. But you should know that these feelings are normal.
Even though you may have agreed to go, it does not mean your anxiety towards therapy goes away. These initial interactions can make you feel uncomfortable. After all, you have to share not only information about what you are struggling with but also basic information about your entire life. Your therapist will ask about your family, career, close friends, romantic relationships, background, and much more. Revealing all of this information to a stranger is daunting.
A fear many people have before their first session is if they are going to like their therapist or not. If not, they will have to go through this process all over again. While therapy is a great way to manage and improve your mental health, it’s understandable why so many people have anxiety towards therapy. Lifeworks Counseling Center wants everyone to get the most out of their sessions, which is why we have provided some helpful tips to help lessen your anxiety towards your first therapy session.
Be Proud of Yourself.
As we said earlier, deciding to go to therapy is a big step on its own. You accept that you are struggling with your mental health in some way and are prepared to make an effort to improve your situation. It takes courage to meet with a therapist and discuss something so personal. While your mind might be full of questions about your first visit, you should still take a moment to appreciate the pivotal first step you have taken.
It is perfectly understandable to be nervous about revealing so much about yourself to a stranger. However, if you are not open and honest with them, you are not only wasting your therapist’s time but also yours. Remember, if you are not honest, your therapist might misdiagnose you or suggest treatment that is not appropriate for your situation. They may even believe you no longer need treatment when that is not the case.
Do not try to sugar coat how you are feeling or some of your behaviors. Remember, a therapist will not judge you. You are in a safe environment. It may even help to be upfront about your anxiety with them. This may even break the ice and make the rest of the session(s) more bearable.
Schedule Your Appointment at a Convenient Time.
If you have never been to therapy before, you won’t know how you’ll feel after a session is over or even before a session has begun. In some cases, people feel refreshed enough to return to work or school after a session. In other cases, people need time to process the feelings and thoughts that your therapy unearthed.
To be safe, schedule your first appointment when you have little to nothing to worry about. Consider taking a day off. Give yourself ample time after your session to process your emotions, just in case your sessions leave you feeling overwhelmed. However, therapy may refresh you and inject you with a boost of motivation. Consider each scenario when scheduling an appointment.
Conversely, give yourself plenty of time before your session if you are nervous. Give yourself time to prepare yourself for therapy, letting yourself relax before you need to open up to a therapist. Open up plenty of free time beforehand. If you already feel anxiety towards therapy, you don’t want to add more stress by running late or being preoccupied with something else.
Have Realistic Expectations.
While we agree that therapy is a helpful way for people to manage their mental health, it is not a magic cure-all. If you go into your first few sessions expecting to have your problems fixed right away, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. It is crucial to set goals for what you want to get out of therapy. When creating your goals, try to be more specific about what you want to get out of therapy, such as drinking less or dealing with substance abuse, dating the wrong people, or improving your relationships with family. By setting specific goals, you can temper your expectations and understand that therapy is a process that often takes a lot of time and work.
Remember, while therapists are trained professionals, they are only human. They do not have all the answers. They are there to help you navigate your own emotions. It is a partnership, requiring effort from your therapist and you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions.
Before your first session, create a list of questions you may have about therapy. Don’t be afraid to ask about billing or insurance. To ease your comfort level and build trust and confidence in your therapist, ask them about their experience level, what their counseling style is like, if you will be able to address the reason you sought out counseling in the first place, and much more. It’s good to understand that there are no wrong answers in therapy. Your therapist won’t have all the answers, but they can help guide you to them. Asking your therapist questions helps build rapport, which is vital in creating a solid patient-therapist relationship.
Remember, Everything is Confidential.
While there is no shame in admitting that you struggle with mental illness, many people all around the world still do. They try to keep their feelings bottled up and avoid openly admitting their struggles. They feel ashamed. This shame is what keeps many people from going to therapy. However, everything said within your therapy sessions remains confidential. Your therapist cannot share any information about you without your written consent unless they have reason to believe you might harm yourself or others. In that case, it is their professional duty to prevent this harm or contact the authorities.
However, in all other cases, what you tell your therapist remains with them. No one has to know until you feel ready to let others know.
It’s Okay to Not Like Your Therapist.
Therapy is about creating a strong relationship between patient and therapist. It relies on trust and comfort. However, you might not feel comfortable with the first therapist you meet. And that is okay. For you to reach the improvements you want, you need a therapist you trust and feel comfortable around. Trust your gut. If something does not feel right, make a change. However, give a therapist a few sessions before you make up your mind. It often takes time to build trust and break the ice.
Making the decision to go to therapy is a huge decision that takes a lot of courage. However, even after you have scheduled your appointment, you still may have some anxiety towards counseling. These feelings are natural. Therapy can be an intimidating experience. Just remember that your therapist is there to make you feel comfortable and help you navigate your emotions and mental health. If you are interested in starting counseling yourself, give Lifeworks Counseling Center a call to schedule your first appointment.