Questions To Ask In Your First Therapy Session

Updated October 3, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Scheduling your first therapy session can be scary, whether you opt for in-person or online therapy, but this article provides a lot of helpful tips to get started. It may aid you in preparing for your first visit with a therapist, help you understand what to expect out of the process, and allow you to find the right person to work with. Starting therapy can be straightforward when you know what to expect and have ideas about what you want to accomplish by working with a qualified therapist. For example, if you want to understand feelings that you are experiencing, talk about your childhood, or discuss the hope you have for the future, there is likely no wrong reason to take advantage of therapy.

Learn More About What You Can Ask A Therapist During Your First Session

First, Ask Your Therapist

Just like a physical exam, you should come in ready to have an open and frank discussion with your therapist. In your first therapy session, you'll complete initial paperwork, including possibly answering questions about your family history, and your therapist will need to assess you, which will eventually lead to a diagnosis, if necessary, and a treatment plan. To do something like this, they need to talk to you to get as much information from their clients as possible, so they can have an idea of how they want to proceed with the next session, and sinceit can be related to your particular circumstances and needs.

You might feel intimidated opening up completely in your first therapy sessions, but you shouldn't. Even if you are a bit nervous when you meet your therapist, you should feel safe speaking with them. If you don’t feel relaxed with your doctor, even after some time, they may not be the one for you. You might want to find a doctor that is a better fit.

While that may or may not make it easier to open up, your therapist has been trained to know what type of questions to ask first and when to listen. It can feel like a casual conversation at first, sprinkled with a variety of personal information that leads to a diagnosis and treatment plan, starting from the first counseling session. It’s important to be honest, even in your initial session, so that your therapist has an accurate understanding of you, and your therapist can therefore provide you with the most beneficial treatment approach in the second session, and subsequent future sessions.

First Session Therapist Interviewing

It’s common to feel nervous before your first therapy session or at the beginning of the treatment with your therapist, but you’ll likely find it much more laid back, calm, and less intensive than you originally anticipated. Finding a therapist and nurturing relationships with them doesn’t usually require a ton of research, but there are some necessary questions to ask when seeking therapy for mental health issues. Be sure to keep realistic expectations when it comes to working with a therapist as well since the process is different for everyone. You can ask them these questions or come up with your own to help you prepare for your first session. Is the therapist licensed and certified? What is the therapist's specialty? What insurance does my therapist accept? Most of these questions can be answered by the administrative staff or the therapist directly.

Therapist Questions

Trying to determine what questions to ask first in therapy? Many of these therapy questions to ask will be more of a discussion than a direct answer. This will allow your therapist to address any anxiety you may have. Here is a list of example questions to consider before or during your first session. 

When are we meeting?

It’s important to know your availability and time commitment for your first session with your therapist and those that follow. Depending on your situation, your therapist may want to meet anywhere from three times a week to once a month. The first session will help determine how many sessions your therapist feels you should meet. This number may change as the weeks go on and can either lessen or increase, but it’s good to establish and understand the starting point. Both you as the client and your therapist should first feel comfortable with the frequency of when you will have a session. Successful therapy treatment for improved mental health generally takes at least a month or two to produce results. Overall, the total number of sessions you meet with your therapist and the results will differ, depending on the client, how much you talk about what is affecting you in your life, as well as other aspects. While it may be hard to gauge initially, these are still important questions to ask your therapist first. Every answer you get from your therapist may help you determine if they will be the correct person for you to work with. Besides that, talking to them during a therapy session, even if it is the first therapy session, can allow you to open up to them, and keep the conversation flowing.

How long will it last?

Depending on the mental health issue and individual circumstances, a patient can come in to meet with a therapist for merely a session, or a few sessions, or can continue sessions long-term. While it may be hard to gauge initially, you should still consider these questions to ask in that first session.

What outside resources are available?

This question is more specific to your particular mental health condition or mental illness, but it’s still important to know. Outside of the therapy sessions, is your therapist available by email or phone for emergencies or questions about your mental illness? Are there any hotlines for professional medical advice that you can or should keep on hand?

How long have you been practicing?

Another question that may help you become more comfortable with your therapist is asking them about their professional background. You may want to know more about how long they have had their practice, what professional associations they are a part of if they have medical reviewers that will check their medical history and more. Keep in mind that there are no wrong questions to ask, but you should remain respectful with your queries.

What methods do you use first?

There are many different approaches to therapy – psychodynamic therapy, which involves delving into past experiences in the session; cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves examining thought and behavior patterns in the session; art therapy, which explores how the creative centers of the mind influence mental health in the session; existential therapy; and a host of other approaches. Many therapists combine various methods, and most methods support both mental health and physical health.

It’s a good idea to ask the therapist how they work before scheduling an appointment or a therapist's first session to get a sense of whether or not it’s right for you. This may be the first thing to consider talking about once you find a therapist, as well as allowing you to know what to expect from your first therapy session and moving forward.

What about the progress?

First of all, therapy won’t fix everything overnight. It’s a process and a journey, and because it may happen in small steps, it can sometimes feel like it might not be working, especially if you’re viewing it as a patient. However, it is important to wait it out a while, if possible, and continue your treatment. Ask your therapist what progress can look like after each session and what to expect throughout the process. Discuss milestones to gauge that progress. Maybe a month in, reevaluate the answers that you gave at the first session and see how far you’ve come. It can be encouraging for the process and allow you to see the benefits of your work in each session and outside of each therapy session.

After this conversation in your session, you and your therapist can then choose your goals and develop a plan to achieve these things outside of each session. It’s important to remember that some therapists are not a good fit, and if you feel like this is the case, feel free to speak with someone else. There may be other options within the therapist’s office, where switching therapists can be a quick fix. There is not anything wrong with that and your reason for switching can remain confidential. You know yourself and your feelings the best and having a good therapist that you feel comfortable with in each session will only help in the long run.

First Timers' Online Options

Scheduling that first therapy session appointment can feel intimidating and can produce fearful emotions but taking the first step to therapy is truly a victory, and it doesn’t have to be unpleasant. Studies have found online therapy to be just as effective as in-person counseling, including online cognitive behavioral therapy to address conditions like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others. Moreover, while online therapy and in-person therapy were found to both be effective during depression treatment, people utilizing in-person therapy experienced notably worsened depression symptoms within three months of ending therapy, while those in the study who engaged in online therapy did not. This may give you a good idea of the type of therapy you want to take advantage of.

Online therapy has many advantages, including potentially reducing the anxiety experienced in face-to-face interactions, and the hassles involved with finding the right therapist. Additionally, so long as you have internet, BetterHelp is at your disposal anytime, anywhere, without you needing to even leave the house. There's no waiting room, you don’t have to make a special appointment, and no therapist's office to travel to. Online therapists receive training, much like other therapists do, so they can provide you with support when it comes to talking therapy, working through your feelings, discussing symptoms, and more.

In rural areas where the nearest licensed therapist may be hours away, online therapy is of particular benefit. It can be a good match for those without health insurance as well, since it may be cost-effective. This allows you the opportunity to have a relationship with your therapist without ever actually meeting in person. Read reviews below for some BetterHelp therapists who will make your first appointment comfortable and convenient for you, helping to improve your life and ensuring that individuals you meet at BetterHelp are likely putting your needs first. 

Learn More About What You Can Ask A Therapist During Your First Session

Reviews and Feedback

“Aaron is a fantastic counselor. He listens, appreciates, and understands and every advice and task he gives me to do is very personal and specific to me and my needs. He makes me feel comfortable and relaxed and I feel completely comfortable opening up to him.”

“I was skeptical of BetterHelp and therapy in general. After my first call with Dr. Cox Lance, I knew I made the right choice. She was patient and listened to my problems. She helped me identify my goals and ways to change my perspective on problems and annoyances I faced. Strongly recommend.”

Conclusion

Experiencing your first therapy session doesn’t have to cause you stress or make you nervous. When you can take the time to prepare questions ahead of your first visit or first session that you want to ask, this can give you a better understanding of what to expect throughout the process. Then you can decide if you would like to continue to talk to and work with your therapist. Be sure to keep in mind that you may take advantage of a therapy session, both in-person or online, depending on your preferences and the service you are using. Either can be a good idea, based on your situation. Determine what type of therapy you feel content with and begin the process. Therapy can provide you with hope, change your feelings, and allow you to feel more like yourself. There’s no need to wait to see if it can make a difference in your life. Reach out for support today.

Ready to conquer anxiety through therapy? BetterHelp Therapy can help. Reach out today to start confidential online therapy.

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