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If you are reading this, you may have mixed feelings towards beginning therapy.
Let's go over some of the most common experiences people have when seeking help, and how to best respond to your anxiety.

It is completely normal to feel anxious before your first therapy session.

The act of simply making an appointment can make you feel anxious.

Common Thoughts Before Your First Session Might Include:

"I don’t know what to expect."

"I'm afraid of revealing embarrassing issues."

"I might have nothing to say."

"I’m afraid my therapist will judge me."

"I’m afraid of revisiting my past."

"I’m afraid my therapist will expect me to change right away."


These thoughts & feelings are normal and are part of the therapeutic process. This is because people often become anxious when engaging in new situations where they don’t necessarily know the outcome of that situation. This is especially true when the topics discussed are personal and potentially triggering. Not knowing what may happen in therapy can be difficult and scary, so let’s work on limiting some misconceptions and building your inner strength in an effort to better help with your decision.

Blue Water

"I don't know what to expect."

The first time you walk into my office I will make the utmost effort in making you feel comfortable and right at home. We will start by going over some paperwork, discussing rules pertaining to confidentiality, and what brings you in. After that we may explore your symptoms, how long you have been struggling with your current issue, and how you have been managing yourself. In an effort to best help you and adapt to your treatment preferences, we will also go over previous experiences you may have had with counseling and what you liked or didn’t like about your previous treatment. Throughout the session I highly urge you to feel free to ask me any questions- anything and everything is on the table. This is your session, and you should feel comfortable enough to discuss, or not discuss, anything you’d like. Because of this, if you feel anxious during session, please tell me. Therapy is meant to be an open and safe environment to explore such feelings. Therapy has three phases. The first is information gathering, where I may ask questions in an effort to get to know you and assess presenting issues. The second phase is the meat of the treatment and this is where we will collaborate to make positive changes in your thinking, self-care, emotional regulation, communication, support network, etc. The third phase is termination. This occurs when you are feeling better and when we have reached your treatment goals.

"I'm afraid my therapist will judge me."

Please know that my number one concern as your counselor is to help you, not to judge you. We are all human, and as human beings we are all inherently flawed and are bound to make mistakes. The key is in understanding those imperfections, in understanding why we may continue to make certain mistakes, and in learning how to grow from our experiences- not to berate ourselves for having them. Once we give ourselves kindness, once we recognize that our inadequacy is quite normal and average, then we may be ready for change. If this hard for you to digest, I’d like you to start thinking about your own inner critic. How often would you say, or others say, that you are hard on yourself? Remember, our fears of what others think of us is often a projection of our own inner critic onto them. In other words, it is really your own negative beliefs about yourself that you are imagining that I might think about you. More than likely, anything you share with me I probably have heard before, or may have heard in a more extreme sense. We all have issues, your struggles are how you are, not who you are. Nobody is perfect and we all have our work to do, including myself. And that's ok.

"I'm afraid of revisiting painful memories or revealing embarrassing issues."

You do not need to share all of your inner secrets during your first session, nor should you. The beginning phase of therapy is about building a trusting and authentic relationship together, not about pressuring you to open up. You can share at a pace that feels comfortable for you, remember you are the one who is in control. There have been numerous occasions where my clients would indicate holding onto a heavy secret, and who weren’t quite ready to share them with me. Being open and honest about not wishing to share something is healthy as it sets boundaries and allows you to pace the sessions at a rate that feels comfortable for you. If you do not wish to share something about your life with me, I will respect that, and may even encourage you to hold onto that aspect of your life until you are genuinely ready to share. As we establish a stronger therapeutic relationship and when your are ready, we will collaboratively work together to address those experiences. After clients have shared secrets they’ve been holding onto, most feel a tremendous amount of relief and state that sharing such experiences wasn’t as difficult or scary as they had originally thought. Remember, I am not here to judge. You can improve your prognosis in therapy by sharing as much as you can when you feel ready. The beauty of therapy is that it is a confidential space designed to help you grow. My hope is that in my office, you feel a sense of safety to share what you’d like without fear of judgement or criticism.

"I'm afraid my therapist will expect me to make changes that I'm not ready to make."

Many people fear when they first start therapy, their therapist will expect them to immediately change, or to completely stop their self sabotaging coping mechanisms. There is no pressure in achieving goals or in changing your behaviors. The first session is just about me getting to know you and exploring a bit of your life. I’ll make sure to go by your pace and to meet you where you are at. And here’s a secret- even if I did push for change right away, it wouldn’t work. In my experience, clients only begin to change once they are ready and once they make a real decision to change. I can not and will not make that choice for you. I find it important for clients to maintain their own free will and autonomy, while taking the time to really think before making any significant changes. It’s also important to note that your negative coping mechanisms and symptoms will likely continue during the first phase of treatment, and may occur at different points during therapy. This is normal and expected, as old habits aren’t easy to change without real, genuine effort. I encourage you to be honest and open with me when these behaviors kick in, and know that I will not judge if you engage in them or relapse.

"I might have nothing to say and things might get awkward."

Anxiety about not having things to say can deter you from potentially coming to therapy. You may feel a large amount of pressure to talk in session, or may feel an overwhelming expectation to speak. Please know that this is not the case. There is no expectation of you to have things to say in session. If things come to mind during our discussion great, and if not, that is ok. The silence is bearable and natural, not having things to say is much like when a writer has writer’s block. For whatever reason, you may have difficulty in coming up with the words in session. I have experienced many occasions where a client did not have anything to say, or was just too uncomfortable in speaking. We would usually figure out where to go from there- either by me asking different types of questions that helped the client find their voice, or by us both remaining silent until something came up. Either way, if not having things to say in session is holding you back from engaging in therapy, please know this is natural and usually lasts during the first session or two.

Believe in yourself and your abilities, there is more strength in you than you know.

Reach the Top

Think about the best version of yourself, the you who you want to become. Imagine being able to take a hold of that, of being able to achieve what you have been desiring. There is an enormous amount of potential in you, waiting to be unlocked.

Now at the same time, imagine what it would be like to do the opposite. What would happen if you didn’t pursue your dreams or move past the obstacles you know to be avoiding? What's the risk of not taking a risk? The number one regret people have in life is not taking authentic action. Of rejecting their true voice, needs, and desires. You can do it, you just have to know you can. There is more strength in you than you know. Manage your fears so they don’t manage you. Face your fears, especially when feeling anxious. Let your truest self guide your actions, and take the risks that makes life worth living.

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