How to prepare for your first therapy session
Asking for help is not always easy because we often perceive it as a sign of weakness or failure. Moreover, the decision to go to therapy is even more complicated because of stereotypes and beliefs about mental health. Hence, seeking support is a genuine act of courage and psychological maturity. Fortunately, more people are taking this step and deciding to go to a therapist to overcome their problems and develop skills to enjoy an emotionally balanced and more fulfilling life.
Suppose you have realised that the passage of time is not the remedy you were hoping for to solve your discomfort. In that case, you understand that you need help to deal with the situation you are experiencing. Although you have decided to go to therapy, you must be clear about details before your first visit to the therapist. This way, you will be able to explain more clearly what is happening to you. Still, you will also be able to level your expectations and make the most of your first meeting.
Seven things to keep in mind before your first visit to a psychologist
The beginning of therapy can be disconcerting for many people, especially if it is the first time. It's normal for doubts and uncertainty to creep in, and you may feel embarrassed to show your inner world to a "stranger". However, while these feelings probably won't go away on the first visit, you can manage them better. It will help if you spend some time preparing before the consultation. Here are some guidelines to help you cope better with that first appointment.
1. Take notes about what is going on in your life.
Why have you decided to go to therapy? What is going on in your life that has prompted you to make this decision? Before your first appointment, you must think about these questions. Many people enter therapy motivated by their discomfort. Still, they have not taken the time to think about what is wrong in their lives. During your first consultation, the therapist will ask you some questions to clarify what you are experiencing. You can take the initiative and bring up the most relevant issues you feel. You will save precious time and help focus the therapy in the right direction.
2. Reflect on your goals in therapy
Being aware that we have a problem does not mean we are clear about what is happening to us. Most people who experience emotional distress do not know where it comes from. And it is precisely the idea of therapy to help you discover the cause of your problems and find solutions to them. However, being clear about at least some of your goals at the beginning of therapy can help outline the kind of support you need and increase the effectiveness of the results. Therefore, before your first appointment, take some time to reflect on what you want to achieve in therapy and where you want to go. In the first few consultations, the therapist may propose some goals. These initial goals will often change as the treatment progresses. Still, at least you will be able to establish a starting point.
3. Be prepared to take responsibility
At the beginning of therapy, many people expect the therapist to take responsibility for the decisions they have to make and the solutions to their problems. However, the therapist won't do the work for you or solve your conflicts. But will offer you the resources and tools you need to find a solution on your own and at your own pace. Therefore, it is essential to manage your expectations and realise the importance of your effort and commitment to therapy. The sooner you are ready to work on your well-being and start to see results. Therefore, before you go for your first consultation, ask yourself if you are willing to be responsible during therapy. How committed you are to the treatment you are about to start.
4. Say goodbye to shame
Perhaps one of the most complex parts to deal with for most people coming to their first therapy is having to get emotionally naked in front of the psychologist. Showing our emotions openly, revealing our feelings and telling what is on our minds is not always easy. However, it is the only way for the therapist to access our inner world to get to know us better and give us the tools we need to deal with our problems. Therefore, if you want therapy to work, you must be prepared to show your inner world and emotions as if they were an open book.
5. Trust your chosen professional
Often, people come to their first consultation with doubts about whether it will work. They think that if they have not understood what is going on in their mind, the therapist, a stranger, will not be able to either. However, this will only make their "prophecy" come true because they are not committed to the therapy. So, suppose you want to find solutions and alleviate your discomfort. In that case, you must trust the chosen professional and allow them to help you. This does not mean you should be stuck with the first therapist you selected. Finding a professional that is the right fit for you can take a while.
6. Write down all your doubts and concerns
When going to therapy for the first time, it is normal to have many doubts and concerns about the therapeutic process. How long will the treatment last? How often will I have to go to a consultation? Should I do some exercises at home? Will I be able to overcome my problem? How soon will I start to notice an improvement? Will I need support from my family members? In preparation for the first appointment, write down all your questions and keep them handy so you can discuss them with the psychologist. Write down everything you don't know or are unclear about, so you can ask your therapist. Having a written list of questions will give you more confidence and make you feel less overwhelmed during the first appointment. Which will help you concentrate better, break the ice and open up more easily with the therapist.
7. Don't expect magical solutions
Therapy is not a magic act. It takes time and commitment on your part for therapy to work. Problems that have taken months or even years to build up inside you cannot be solved in five sessions. And the sooner you are clear about this reality, the sooner you will be able to take action and assume a more active role in the therapeutic process. Therefore, before your first consultation, reflect on your expectations of therapy. How much time you are willing to invest in your treatment, what you want to achieve, and how deep you want to go. Taking a moment during your preparation to think about these questions will allow you to discuss them with your therapist at your first consultation and level your expectations
Preparing for your first therapy session is fundamental to identifying the problems you want to solve. I can also help clear up your main doubts and adjust your expectations about the therapeutic process. It will also allow you to arrive at that first meeting calmer, safer and more confident. However, this preparation should not become another problem in your life. After all, the idea is that once you have decided to go to therapy, you will begin to alleviate the heavy burden you are carrying on your shoulders. Also, remember that as treatment progresses, many of the uncertainties and fears you now have will disappear.
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