Starting Therapy for the First Time? Here's What You Need to Know

Starting Therapy for the First Time? Here's What You Need to Know

Look at you! You made the leap, made the appointment, reached out for help…but now what? You have your appointment scheduled, but when you walk through the doors of your therapist’s office…what will happen? If this sounds like you – you’re in the right place! As someone who has gone to therapy on and off for a decade, I feel “experienced” enough to give you the inside scoop on therapy!

Before you have your first appointment you’ll need to fill out some paperwork. A lot of places call it “intake forms”. This varies, but most of the time they want to know your family history, medical history, medications, reasons for wanting to come to therapy, etc. I know, it can be alot, but try to space it out. I would split up the paperwork into sections and fill out one section per day. If you get stuck on something – bring it to your first appointment and talk through it with your therapist. They are there to help you!

The first appointment looks different than the rest of the appointments. A lot of therapists call this the “intake session”. Your therapist will look through your intake forms before your arrival, so they’ll have some background information about you going into your appointment. You will probably be asked why you’ve decided to go to therapy, how you are doing currently in life, etc. Think of this appointment as laying the groundwork for the rest of your sessions!

Most therapist offices have dim lighting (thank goodness for no harsh overhead lighting), comfy chairs/couches, wall decorations, maybe a desk, and possibly a bowl of chocolates! Their goal is to make you feel welcome and comfortable – and their space should reflect this. They will usually tell you where they want you to sit, whether that’s a chair or a couch, and they will sit across from you. Oftentimes they will be holding a notepad or electronic tablet of some sorts to take notes. Don’t worry about this - they are just taking notes to remind them of the things you discuss. Therapists see many clients, so they want to make sure to keep up with all the information you share in session. These notes are secure and will not be shared with anyone. Which leads to my next topic - confidentiality.

I’ve known many people to be hesitant to start therapy because of confidentiality. Please know – therapists cannot share information about you unless you plan on harming yourself or others. That is the only time they break confidentiality. Think of it like seeing your doctor - they will not go around sharing any of your personal information.

What if you don’t like your therapist? My rule is give them 2 or 3 appointments before you decide you don’t mesh well with them. If you don’t like them – that’s totally okay! Just find a new therapist and try again. Your experience with one therapist to the next will not be the same. Don’t be afraid to explore your options!

All in all, know that it’s okay to be apprehensive about your first appointment. Know that you are in control of the appointment and only have to share what you are comfortable with. I’m so proud of you for taking this step to take care of yourself, and in turn, taking care of those around you.


Rachel Parrett

Rachel is the founder of Mend Lip Balm and lives in Fort Worth, TX. As a mental health advocate, she finds a lot of joy in educating those around her about resources available to them. In her free time she loves to read, attend her adult swim league practices, and go to concerts.


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