I find it interesting to see counseling become normalized. It isn’t yet, but I can definitely assure you more people have opened up to the idea. I feel this is especially true when young kids let their parents know they are seeking therapy as common practice to their health regime, like going to the doctor, dentist, etc. Young children often aren’t aware of the stigma surrounding mental health issues, so for them, it’s become almost normalized for future generations.
Most therapists believe it should be viewed the same way, too. I see it this way, you might not go to the dentist until your cavity is giving you unbearable pain, requiring you take medication to relieve discomfort. But it would have been better if you would have just attended your yearly check-ups to get the cavity filled, instead of having to have a complete root canal, which is now going to require more visits and a higher pain tolerance. The same could be said with emotional wounds inside that we allow to fester because we don’t know how to fix them. You wouldn’t just do your own root canal, would you? Therefore, attending therapy can be similar, finding closure to the cavities in our emotions. These cavities can be seen in our behavior as quick tempers, lack of interest, sleepless nights, etc. And sometimes, we don’t even know we have a cavity until we take a wrong bite. So, here is a list of things that can be expected when going to your first therapy session:
1. You’ll have to sign a consent form.
The consent form indicates you are aware and accepting of receiving counseling services. Consent arms the client with the right to privacy, meaning what is said in session remains confidential. Within that consent form, there are limits of confidentiality, meaning a therapist will break that contract if there is suspicion of childhood abuse or suicidal/homicidal intentions. Another limit to confidentiality is if notes are subpoenaed by a court of law. Every clinician must abide by their state’s regulation, but this is pretty common practice.
2. You’ll set goals for yourself.
The progress of therapy is viewed through goals, so it’s common to have a conversation with your therapist during the first session about what needs to be improved behaviorally, and how you would know things are improving.
3. It’s one hour, you got this.
Session typically range from 45 to 55 minutes. Sessions can be individual, with couples or the entire family. It is dependent on your goals and who you want in there with you.
4. There will be questions.
This one may be obvious, but expect to open up about you. It may be hard. It can be uncomfortable, but people grow the most during difficult and uncomfortable situations. It is said that afterward, there is a sense of relief. However, don’t be bummed if you don’t feel that way. Sometimes it takes going through a couple therapists to find the best fit for your needs, and you’ll know when it’s right. If you don’t feel it’s right, speak with your therapist, they will be happy to hear your feedback and can direct you to additional services.
A version of this article was originally published on Mental Monarchs.