What to Expect In Your First Therapy Session at Mind and Body Works

The First Step:

Taking the first step into looking after your mental health can be daunting. You may see it as a sign of weakness that you are seeking professional support. You may feel nervous about your first therapy session and what to expect. You may have questions such as, what will they ask me? What is a first therapy session like? What is the therapist like? Is therapy uncomfortable? Will I feel worse for talking? These questions and many more are quite normal for most people as they consider starting therapy for the first time.The first step is taking the decision to go to therapy. It takes courage and strength to put yourself out there into what can be a lot of unknowns for you. Knowing about the therapeutic process can help to ease you into taking that decision and to have a positive mind set before beginning.

Tips When Thinking of Starting Therapy:
Each therapist differs somewhat in their approach and individual style. No one therapist is suited to everyone. When reaching out and taking the first steps into looking after your mental health, it is important that you try to find a good match between what you are seeking and what is being offered. Asking the right questions of yourself first, and then researching into the different forms of therapy and individual therapists, is a key step in your therapy journey process.

The starting point can be trying to identify what is happening for you. For example, you may be experiencing feelings like panic, stress, anxiety low mood, or noticing changes such as feeling more distracted, unsettled, sad or distant in relationships. Sometimes other people such as friends, family, partners, or doctors can be helpful in identifying issues that you are dealing with. Sometimes you might find that reading self-help or personal development books or searching online articles can give you more personal insights into what you are experiencing. Whatever way you begin your search or exploration, the chances are that you will soon begin to realise that what you are experiencing is not entirely unique to you, and that there are professionals who can support you in dealing with what you are going through.

stressed younger woman

Tips When Choosing a Therapist:

Look into the background and training of a therapist and see what types of issues they are experienced in working with. It is particularly important to ensure that the therapist is a member of a recognised professional body, such as the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP), The Irish Association for Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy (IAHIP), or the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI). These organisations safeguard that your therapist is properly qualified and works to the highest professional standards. You then need to consider what approaches they work with, and what areas that they specialise in that best suit the issues that you would like to work with. You will also need to look at the fee structure to ensure that it is affordable to you. You also need to establish what appointments are available and when is realistic that you will be able to attend on a regular (usually weekly) basis.

What to expect during the first therapy session:

You may feel apprehensive about attending your first therapy session. This is not unusual as you are conceivably going to take about your more personal or private self to someone who is still a stranger to you. Think of this as a new relationship for you, and so it will take time to build up a sense of trust and safety. Your therapist will most likely want to start by hearing from you what it is that you are seeking to work on in therapy. This is where your own preparation becomes important, so that it will allow you and your therapist to clarify what you are looking for and how realistic that is, how long it may take, and what approach might work best. The therapist may take some notes and sometimes might ask you to fill out an intake form to get some details from you. Do not be put off if you feel like you are not good at expressing your feelings or thoughts, this is true for many people. It can also be helpful for you if you have written these down beforehand as this will help you both to remember what you would like to say and to be clearer when you are talking to your therapist.

Questions to Ask In Your First Therapy Session:

When it comes to you asking questions of your therapist, don’t be afraid to find out what you need to know about the process of therapy. These answers can really help you begin your therapy journey and give you confidence about both the process and in your therapist. Think of intial therapy session questions that you know will help reassure you that therapy and your therapist is right for you.
Useful questions might be;

  • ‘How many sessions do you think I will need before I can see improvement or change?’
  • ‘What will happen in the next session?’
  • ‘Is there anything that I could do in between each session to help myself?’
  • ‘Is therapy confidential?’
  • ‘Will therapy ever make me feel more upset?’
  • ‘Can you explain how this therapeutic approach works?’

Questions like these can help you build a connection with your therapist and give you confidence about commencing therapy.


listening to therapistDifferent Therapeutic Approaches

No one therapist works with all the therapeutic approaches offered within Mind and Body Works. Each therapist has completed a core training which focuses on a primary therapeutic approach, but also will have a secondary focus on other major approaches. Research has shown that the most important element in effective therapy is the strength of the therapeutic relationship between therapist and client, rather than which type of approach is used. It is still important to consider the approach that you feel might best suit you, but do bear in mind that many therapists will have integrated elements of other approaches into how they work in practice.


What to do after your first therapy session?

It is important to realise that one session of therapy won’t resolve your issues immediately. However, it is a very significant first step, and you may feel relieved just to have made that start. It is important to acknowledge and feel proud of yourself for having had the courage to begin the journey. Be prepared that you may feel emotional after your therapy session and you may feel some physical tiredness. After a session is a time to be kind to yourself !

Take time to reflect on what has been said in between sessions. You might even keep track in a journal on how you are feeling after each session or what reflections come up for you in the interim between sessions. This journal can be useful for you to look back on over time and see how much you have progressed.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT

What are the Benefits of Starting Therapy?

The benefits of engaging in therapy can vary from person to person, but may include

  • Increased level of personal awareness and self-acceptance
  • Improved self-confidence regarding communication and interpersonal skills
  • Change in behaviours and beliefs that were previously limiting or holding you back
  • An easing of more difficult emotions such as stress, anxiety and depression
  • Increased sense of self and purpose in life

What are the Challenges of Starting Therapy?

The challenges of therapy can often be fear-based and negative. In reality, these challenges are stepping stones into feeling the risking of putting yourself forward into an uncomfortable and vulnerable place. These challenges can often be typically experienced as;

  • Fearing overwhelm of emotions
  • Anxiety of anticipating what might come up in a session
  • Feeling anxious about spending money on your emotional and mental health
  • Fear of judgement
  • Fear that therapy will never end and that you will become dependent on it

These are the fears and challenges that many could feel when starting. It is good to be aware of them and to be able to express them to your therapist.

And Finally….

Beginning therapy can be daunting for many. Not knowing what to expect in your first therapy session can be worrying and can cause added stress. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture as your mental health is what matters. Consider that taking the first step will hopefully lead to positive change and growth happening in your life. Not taking that step means staying where you are….

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