What to expect in your first therapy appointment

The thought of going to therapy can be daunting. Some people think that you only go to therapy when you are going through a huge crisis. There can be feelings of shame and stigma surrounding the idea of going to therapy. The purpose of this article is calm some of your jitters by walking you through what an initial therapy session is like.

Self Compassion

Going to therapy is an act of showing yourself compassion. It’s a desire to be a healthier person and a desire to change for the better. Usually people don’t scoff when you go to the dentist or a medical doctor or a massage therapist. Our mental health and relationships need care too and there is no shame in helping yourself in all aspects of your life.

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Why do people go to therapy?

There are many reasons why people may decide to go to therapy. The sky is the limit. Here are a few reasons…

  • Finding the courage to come out to your parents

  • Abuse

  • Miscarriage

  • Wanting to improve or strengthen a relationship

  • Uncertainty about life decisions

  • How to deal with emotional cut off from your family

  • Depression or anxiety

  • Trying to have a healthy body image

  • Infidelity

  • Troubles with in-laws

  • Trying to figure out what career to pursue

  • Spiritual abuse or trauma

  • PTSD

  • Suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviors

  • Going to college away from home for the first time

  • Anger management

  • Social anxiety

  • Pre-marital counseling

  • A desire to trust yourself more


What to expect in your first therapy session

The initial session is generally called an intake. The purpose of the first session is for you to find out if the therapist is a good fit for you and for the therapist to better understand your needs and goals for therapy. Before the first session you can call the clinic and request a free phone consultation with the therapist. On the phone or during your first session you can ask your therapist how long of a time commitment you should expect.

The initial session is an ice breaker session where you get to know your therapist and your therapist gets to know you. They will probably ask what your expectations of therapy are and why you chose to come to therapy. They will also ask about your family and medical background. Feel free to ask your therapist about their therapy style and whatever else you want to know about them. Think of it as a two-way interview. This article from self.com suggests to “ask your therapist what progress might look like and how often you should check in to gauge that progress.”

Marla B. Cohen, a therapist interviewed on goodtherapy.org points out that “You should feel safe, accepted, respected, and relatively comfortable. Not all therapists are right for every person, so use your first session to assess whether or not the therapist you chose feels like a good match for your personality.” Therapy is a unique relationship in which you will be discussing very personal topics. Find someone that you feel is informed about the topics you want to discuss and with whom you feel you can be open.

If you want to change to a different therapist…

Sometimes you switch medical doctors and it’s also okay if you want or need to switch therapists. This is normal and you have every right to do so. It’s your money and your time so think of it as an investment in yourself. Find someone who jives with you. You can tell your current therapist and they will understand. Or you can reschedule with the secretary and ask for another therapist in the same office. Another option is to search for a different therapist in a different practice or clinic.

Hopefully, you’ll love your therapist as much as Kristen Bell loves hers. : )

Local low income therapy options

The K-State Family Center offers counseling for students and community members. It is located on campus at Campus Creek Complex. The fee is determined by a sliding fee scale based on income and number of household members. For more information, you can contact The Family Center at this number: 785.532.6984.

Another option is Pawnee Mental Health Services on 2001 Claflin Road. They also provide services in Wamego and Junction City. If you do not have health insurance, the fee is based on a sliding fee scale dependent on your level of income. If you are insured, the insurance company will be billed and you will be responsible for the co-pay. You can call your insurance company to determine how much your co-pay is with insurance. If you are on Medicaid then it’s free. They also have a sliding scale fee for non-insured. You can contact Pawnee Mental Health Services with any questions at this number: 785.587.4300.

An option for K-State students is also Kansas State University Counseling Services. They support the SAFE ZONE on campus. They are located at 1105 Sunset Ave., Room 101 in Manhattan, Kansas. Contact them with any questions at this number: 785.532.6927

Ally Trans Tip of the Day

The following tips are from LGBTQIA Resource Center: “Instead of saying someone was born a boy (or a girl), try saying they were assigned male at birth (or were assigned female).  These terms recognize the difference between sex & gender, and emphasize the ways in which sex & gender are assigned to individuals at birth, rather than being innate, binary or immutable qualities.  AND… you can ask yourself if it is necessary to even mention what sex someone was assigned at birth.”

About the Author

Sarah Bridges is a board member of FHHRP and is an ally of LGBTQIA+ folks. Sarah has a degree in Health Science with an emphasis in Public Health. She is originally from Arizona but calls Manhattan, Kansas her home. In addition to her volunteer work, Sarah is an online ESL teacher. In her spare time, she enjoys hosting book clubs with her husband, hiking, yoga or painting with her strong little girl. 

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