9 Questions To Ask A Therapist During Your First Session Together
By: William Drake
Updated June 03, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
Scheduling your first therapist appointment brings you halfway to a better life. Asking for help is the first step toward improvement. Whether you deal with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or anything else, a licensed mental health professional will help. However, you may have some trepidation over what will happen at your first appointment. This article will cover helpful information to consider for your first session.
What to Expect in Your First Session
Just like a physical exam, you should come in ready to have an open and frank discussion with your therapist. In your first meeting, your therapist will need to assess you, which will eventually lead to a diagnosis and treatment plan. To do this, they need to get as much information as they can related to your condition. Keep in mind, most everything disclosed will be confidential. While that may or may not make it easier to open up, your therapist has been trained to know what questions to ask and when to listen. It can feel like a casual conversation, sprinkled with personal information that leads to a diagnosis and treatment plan. It's important to be honest so your therapist has an accurate understanding of you.
Pre-Session Research-What Should I Already Know?
It's common to feel nervous before your first therapy appointment, but you'll likely find it much more laid back, calm, and less intensive than you may believe.
Finding a therapist doesn't require a ton of research, but there are some necessary questions to ask before making your selection. Are they licensed and certified? What is their specialty? What insurance do they take? Most of these questions can be answered by the administrative staff or the therapist directly.
Nine Questions to Ask a Therapist Before Your First Session
Many of these questions will be more of a discussion than a direct answer.
- How often are we meeting? It's important to know your availability and time commitment. 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 often your therapist feels you should meet, but they may have an idea beforehand. This number may change as the weeks go on and can either lessen or increase, but it's good to understand the starting point.
- How long will therapy last? Depending on the mental health issue, a patient can come in for merely a few sessions or can be there for a much longer term. While it may be hard to gauge initially, it's still an important question to ask.
- What resources are available outside of therapy? This question is more specific to your mental health issue, but it's still important to know. Outside of the therapy sessions, is your therapist available by email or phone for emergencies or questions? Are there any hotlines you should keep on hand?
- What is the patient confidentiality policy? Your therapist will give you this information at your first session, but it's important to know. It helps create a trustworthy space.
- What kind of therapy does your therapist practice? There are many different approaches to therapy-psychodynamic therapy, which involves delving into past experiences; cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves examining thought and behavior patterns; and a host of other approaches. Many therapists combine various methods. It's a good idea to ask the therapist how they work before scheduling an appointment to get a sense of whether it's right for you.
- How is the office run? How can you book appointments, and what happens if you're running late or need to cancel or reschedule?
- What can I expect to happen in my session? Having a structure may or may not help, but setting expectations for what this hour of your life will entail is useful to know.
- If you're doing family or couples therapy, are you going to be in sessions alone or always with your family? How will that work?
- What will progress look like? Therapy won't fix everything overnight. It's a process and a journey, and because it may happen in small increments, it can sometimes feel like it might not be working, especially if you're viewing it as a patient. Ask your therapist what progress can look like. Discuss milestones to gauge that progress. Maybe a month in, reevaluate answers 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.
After this conversation, you and your therapist can then choose your goals and develop a plan to achieve them. 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. You know yourself the best, and having a good therapist you feel comfortable with will only help in the long run.
Online Therapy May Help
Scheduling that first appointment can feel intimidating, but taking the first step to therapy is truly a victory, and it doesn't have to be unpleasant. BetterHelp can be of service through the advantages of online therapy. Online therapy may reduce the anxiety experienced in face-to-face interactions, and the hassles involved with finding the right therapist. Read reviews below for some BetterHelp therapists who will make your first appointment comfortable and convenient for you.
"Aaron is a fantastic counsellor. 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."
Considering the questions discussed in this article is important preliminary work. Now it's time to take this information and schedule your first appointment. The best is ahead! Take the first step.