I don’t like surprises. I don’t like situations where I don’t know what to expect. Heck, I don’t even like going to public places where I don’t know where the nearest restroom is! I like to be prepared.
Since I know I’m not alone in this need to be prepared, I thought I’d give a quick overview of what it’s like to sit down for the first time on a couch in a therapist’s office. Of course, every therapist and every session will be different, but here are a few general ideas of what you might expect if you’re headed into your first therapy session.
You don’t have to lay on a couch.
Like childbirth, therapy is yet another thing TV and movies got wrong. I’d say most people don’t lie down on a couch during therapy! Many therapists don’t even have couches! You can sit, stand, lie down, dance a jig—whatever makes you comfortable and more willing to open up.
Bring in whatever you need to feel comfortable.
Always cold? Bring a sweater. Have a tickle in your throat? Pack some cough drops. The more comfortable you are, the more willing you will be to open up into a candid conversation. I always bring water and cough drops (these are my favorite all natural ones) because my throat gets so tickly when I talk for long periods of time. You probably don’t need to bring tissues—most therapists have those covered.
You’ll fill out some paperwork.
Some practices will have you fill out your paperwork online ahead of time so your therapist can be familiar with your situation before your appointment. Some will have you fill them out in the session.
You’ll talk over administrative details.
HIPAA compliance, payment, scheduling, cancellations, confidentiality—all that good stuff will probably be covered in your first session. Thankfully, you get it all out of the way, and you’ll never need to worry about it again!
Your therapist might use white noise to protect privacy.
Many office buildings aren’t so soundproof, and therapists know this. If your therapy session is in a room close to where other people are (like say, next to a waiting room), don’t be surprised if your therapist has a white noise machine, music, fountain, or other way of drowning out voices. It’s to protect your privacy and make you feel more comfortable. If your therapist doesn’t have white noise going and you feel like it’s easy for your session to be overheard, bring it up to your therapist! You can always download a white noise app for your phone and put it near the door.
Most sessions last around 50 minutes.
This gives the therapist enough time to have a drink of water and gobble a granola bar before they switch gears to another patient in the next hour. Don’t be surprised if your therapist sets a timer or alarm to go off at the end of your session. Some therapists are on tight schedules with very strict time limits, and others might give you a buffer to help wrap up an issue. Read the post »