You are thinking of starting therapy. This thought alone takes self-reflection and courage. With this thought, you can now make a choice to book your first therapy session. You are already steps closer toward positive and mindful changes in your life and relationships.
And that's really powerful of you!
But you still have questions and hesitations on making that first step. Who to call? Where to go? It’s your first time in therapy…of course, you have questions!
Here are 4 things to consider when starting therapy that you may find helpful!
One of the first questions you may be asked by your therapist is, "What brings you into therapy?" To have an answer, take some time to ask yourself “why” you are starting therapy. Is it because of your thoughts? Experiences? Relationships? Stressors? What outcome would you like to have from therapy? What are some goals you have in mind that you'd like to accomplish?
Are you completely unsure how to answer any of those things?
One mindful tip could be to freewrite. Take 5-10 minutes to close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths in and out of your nose. Internally ask and reflect on “why” you are starting therapy. Put your pen to paper and let your thoughts fall onto the paper with no judgment. You may find some repeated words, phrases, or even unrecognized concerns that could help you find your way to your why.
The Magic of Freewriting speaks more about this mindful tool!
Another mindful tip could be to take some time to practice Mindful Meditation. Mindfulness is paying attention from moment to moment to the present without judgment and with an open and curious intention. It is a way of cultivating a part of your brain that can observe without reactivity or the need to avoid or escape what is there in the present moment. Austin Mindfulness Center offers free resources for you to follow with a guided meditation practice here. The best part is, you can listen from anywhere and start anytime.
Once you have your “Why” for starting therapy, it's time for some research. You’ll choose your therapist with more clarity after #1. You’ll want to be sure they have the specialties or experience for what you’re needing help with at this time. Some therapists specialize in anxiety, eating disorders, or depression, for example. What is your priority?
The cost may be a factor for you as well and every therapist has different insurances or private pay rates that they accept. Considering this, do you plan on using insurance or would you be open to private pay?
Does the gender or demographic of the therapist matter to you? Some people find this of importance for relatability and trust.
Ask around if you're comfortable for referrals. You may have a friend or a neighbor that has a referral for a therapist or a practice that has just what you're looking for! There are many Facebook groups and you can search for your local area recommendations.
Remember, you’ll be expressing and receiving guidance for a period of time so feel free to “shop around” until you’ve found your therapist match. Consider the personality of the therapist and consider if you can imagine opening up to them for weeks to come.
If a therapist offers a consultation call before the first session is scheduled, this can be a great way to begin the first step of building trust, checking if you can converse comfortably. You can learn more about their session rates during this time as well.
3. Ask Questions
There is no question too common, small or unimportant when starting your therapy journey. You may or may not have questions the moment you go to a therapist’s website. You may think of a question that seems like no one would ask when you speak to the intake coordinator. Having your questions answered may help alleviate some anxiety.
Consider the responsiveness of how soon your questions are receiving answers as this may give an indication to future communication.
Questions will also give you the chance to receive insight for upcoming sessions. For example, you may want to ask if the therapist offers in-person sessions if face-to-face interactions are important for you. You may want to ask how cancelations work if one day you aren’t feeling well.
No matter what it is, someone will be happy to answer!
You may want to be mindful that your therapist can answer common questions like these:
How does this work?
Are there any ways I can prepare for my sessions?
How long have you been in-practice?
Can you explain the approach you'll use in our sessions?
Do you have experience working with the specialties I'm needing help with (i.e: anxiety, depression, EMDR, parenting, etc.)?
Do you provide in-person sessions or telehealth?
How long will you be in-therapy?
Are you able to see the therapist more than once a week if needed?
What is your cancellation and rescheduling policy?
Who can I contact if I cannot reach you and/or after hours(intake coordinator administration team, etc.)?
4. Book Your First Session
For this last step, it is time to take action at your level of readiness. That may mean it is time to schedule your first session and show up for yourself! There may never be the “perfect time” to start therapy and you may second-guess booking your first session. Keep in mind the earlier sentiment, "the thought alone of starting therapy is already bringing you steps closer toward positive and mindful changes in your life and relationships." Remember that you can always change therapists if you decide at some point that your goals or relationship with your therapist have changed. These are some helpful questions to ask after sessions to ensure that you have the best therapist match for yourself and if you'd like to continue with your chosen therapist in time:
Does your therapist seem to understand and honor your priorities, goals, and needs at this time?
Are you noticing your definition of change or progress in your life after sessions?
Are your goals and priorities being addressed in sessions?
Starting therapy is half of the battle, and continuing therapy is another half. The full picture is that you may be glad that you started today!