It’s understandable to feel a little nervous before your first session. Even so, there are proactive steps that you can take that will dually alleviate some of your nerves, but also help make the first session with your mental health professional, productive and insightful.
Be proud of your decision. First and foremost, give yourself a pat on the back for having the courage to seek professional help. You are choosing to put yourself and your mental well-being first, and you understand that vulnerability is not a weakness, but a strength.
Set time aside for self-reflection before and after your session. Giving yourself some time before your session gives you the opportunity to collect your thoughts and clear your mind. After a session, it is always important to reflect on what has been said to ensure you process and absorb the information imparted to you.
Take down notes. Write down what you hope to achieve, or questions you have regarding confidentiality, the process of therapy and your therapist’s counseling style. You can write about significant life events and how they have affected you, your current circumstances and coping mechanisms you employ at the moment. Taking some time to do this allows you to organise your thoughts and helps make your session more productive.
Think about what your objectives are, and communicate these to your psychologist. What do you want to achieve from attending therapy?
“I would like to eventually overcome my anxiety.”
“I want to learn how to set boundaries in my personal and professional relationships.”
“I want to learn better coping mechanisms to deal with the stresses of my life.”
“I would like someone to help me process my trauma so that I can aim to live a life free of fear.”
If you’re unsure about your goals, that’s okay, too. Finding clarity in this regard is part of what therapy can offer you.
Manage your expectations. This session is the first opportunity that your psychologist has to get to know you better. From here, they can begin painting a picture of your circumstances, goals, and areas in your life that you would like to see improvement in. Painting a full, comprehensive picture will take some time. The average therapy course typically lasts about 3-4 months, according to the American Psychological Association. Trust in yourself and the process, and understand that change takes time.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable. You have taken a huge step agreeing to attend your first session – how your mental wellness journey progresses is up to you. You are letting your therapist into your inner world so that they can help you, not so that they can point out your flaws and make you feel ashamed over your perceived shortcomings. That said, it is completely normal to experience good emotions, bad ones, and conflicting ones, too. Just as is in life, therapy is a process and a journey. Ultimately, it is from the acknowledgement, exploration and processing of these emotions that help you come closer to finding your authentic, happier and healthier self.
Mind You aims to transform our culture and empower people to take control of their mental health and live more fulfilled lives. We take pride in lifting away the stigma, lowering counseling costs and providing increased access to mental health care for all Filipinos.