Did you make your first therapy appointment? Or are you planning to make one in the near future? If so, first congratulate yourself for taking this first step, which is never easy for anyone. Opening yourself up to another person is quite challenging. Here are some preparations you can make to reduce your anxiety regarding your first session.
Who Should Go to a Therapist?
The simple answer is “everybody.” Mental health is as essential as flossing. Taking care of your health doesn’t just imply a healthy body but also entails a healthy mind and soul. As you may know, stress and anxiety can lead to many diseases, like high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid problems, and stomach ulcers. In order to have a healthy body, you need to have a healthy mind. We all feel lonely and sad at times, and we all have some issues we can’t work out on our own. Despite what we may have been taught, there are major benefits to showing some vulnerability. Many of us are taught from an early age that we must be strong, independent, good mothers, successful women, and good wives. Being a woman in modern society is hard, but being a woman of color is even harder. Not only do we have to fight against gender stereotypes, but against racism and discrimination as well. This is especially hard for African American women because they face numerous stereotypes and expectations regarding how they should behave. Well, now it’s time to retire the myth of the strong Black woman, because like every woman, they have a right to feel overwhelmed, tired, under stress, and to share theirs voice about everyday struggles.
How Do I Prepare for My First Therapy Appointment?
The first therapy appointment isn’t always an easy step to take, and it’s normal if you feel anxiety and stress. There are things you can do to prepare yourself for this appointment. First, find a therapist with whom you will feel comfortable. If you are a woman of color, it’s normal for you to want to talk about issues with someone who can understand these problems, and comes from a similar background. Try to find a therapist of color with whom you will feel safe being vulnerable and can relate to. There are amazing resources from black female psychologists across the web. Keep in mind that regardless of who you make an appointment with, these preparation steps are the same.
Step 1. Ask All of the Questions You May Have
Don’t be shy to ask your new therapist all the questions you have before going to a session. If you’re wondering ‘What should I do before my first counseling session?’ making a list of questions to screen the right therapist can help to ease your nerves. We all know going to unknown situations can cause stress. Learning more about a therapists style and approach in advance, will set you up for greater success.
Step 2. Set Your Goals
Before going to a session, think about what you want to achieve. This step is probably the most important because if you know what you want to accomplish, your counseling will be more successful. If you aren’t sure which goals you want to work towards, that is alright because you will figure them out collaboratively with your therapist. One of the first things covered together in your therapy will be goals.
Step 3. Free Your Schedule Before and After Counseling
This is a crucial step because you need to give yourself time to take a deep breath before going to your appointment and to process the experience after your appointment. Therapy can be an emotional experience, and it’s important to allow time to prepare and to decompress. It’s not advised to go to work after your appointment, for instance, because you may not feel up to it, which is normal. Setting aside at least an hour before and after your appointment is advised.
Step 4. Remember, Your Therapist Is There to Help You
When it comes to therapy, it is a non-judgmental, safe space and your therapist is there to listen to you and support you. Therapy is a safe space for you to speak about all of the things that bother you.
Step 5. Don’t Be Afraid, It’s All Confidential
If you’re wondering what to expect at the first therapy appointment, confidentiality is a given. Your therapist is obliged to comply with legal and ethical guidelines to protect and safeguard your personal information. Keep this in mind so you may feel more at ease about sharing your concerns and fears with your therapist. There are only certain instances where a therapist is legally required to disclose information and those situations involve a risk to your personal safety or the safety of another person.
What to Expect at a First Therapy Appointment
You’re probably wondering what to expect at your first therapy appointment or what happens at the first counseling appointment. You shouldn’t expect everything to be fixed during the first session. You also shouldn’t expect that you will feel better right away. Especially if you have lived with experiences of discrimination and racism your entire life, these experiences have a deep impact and can leave behind trauma that is difficult to work through in a couple of sessions. As women of color, we are overrepresented as victims of sexual assault, violence, and hate crimes. Because of this, it’s vital that we give ourselves credit for taking the step to seek counseling, and find comfort in knowing that healing will come in time. Now, let’s take a look at what to expect from your first counseling appointment. The first counseling session is about you and your therapist getting to know one another, setting goals, and discussing what sort of issues you’re experiencing. If you realize that you don’t connect well with your therapist, you can discuss this openly with your therapist or find a new therapist. A connection is vital in order to feel safe enough to be vulnerable during your therapy. In the first appointment, your therapist will ask questions such as: Why are you here? What do you want to achieve? What kind of problems are you experiencing? And other questions that will help your therapist better understand how to support you. Remember, it’s important that you feel able to relate to your therapist because this will allow you to open up and begin to work on what’s bothering you. Working with a female therapist of color can bring you added comfort in discussing issues that only another woman of color would understand.
What Do You Say in a First Therapy Session?
As previously stated, during the first therapy appointment, your therapist will ask you some questions about yourself and what brought you to therapy. All you need to do is to answer these questions honestly. In the first couple of sessions, you will talk about your life, family, friends, and childhood. It may be helpful to also discuss individuals that have made the biggest impact on your life. It can be difficult to discuss emotions, but as therapy progresses, and you and your therapist get to know one another, you will begin to feel more comfortable opening up.
So Now You Know How to Prepare for First Therapy Appointment
When it comes to medical illnesses, timely treatment makes a world of difference, and the same can be said about mental health concerns. You don’t need to wait until you are in the middle of a mental health crisis to seek therapy. Talking with a mental health professional early is an excellent prevention strategy because you can address concerns while they are minor. Many therapists of color are facing similar issues as other women of color such as racism, sexism, and discrimination that occur in our society daily. This often brings an added layer of understanding between you and your therapist. Any time you decide to take this first step know that when you are ready to take that first step to seek therapy, you are armed with these tips to help you prepare.