Following your First Therapy Session

You’ve had your first therapy session …

Take a moment to acknowledge that you have just done something extremely positive for your mental health, your ‘self’, and your life. You may not feel it yet, but this could be the beginning of something profound. So long as you remain engaged in the process, your world is likely to change for the better.  

I can’t profess to know exactly what you’ll be feeling following your first session, because everyone is different, and everyone’s reaction is different, but remember any response to your first session is valid.

The important thing now is to merely notice your response. Therapy isn’t a comparable process. Just because a friend described their first session as one thing, doesn’t mean you’ll have the same reaction. That doesn’t mean you’ll have a lesser experience, it just means you’re having your own experience, and they had theirs.

If you pay attention to your thoughts and feelings after your session, you should be able to identify the reaction you had to your first session. (There are examples below.)

This is the start of ‘therapeutic reflection’, a really important skill that you’ll go on to develop as the process continues.

By acknowledging your response to your sessions, you will be able to understand the impact that the therapeutic process is having on you. It’s for this reason that a therapist may ask you, at a subsequent session, how you found your previous session. They too, are likely to want to monitor the impact of your sessions, so that they can support you accordingly.

If you can identify your reaction to your first session, I’d encourage you to share it with your therapist at the start of your following session. Don’t worry if your response was negative rather than positive, like I say, all feelings are valid, and as therapists, we can help you to make sense of any reaction. The more honest you can be the better, as with honesty comes trust, and this will strengthen your therapeutic bond. 

30 Example Reactions...

  • Relief that the wait is over, and the process has begun.
  • Assurance that you felt like you chose the right person to work with.
  • A weight lifted, after an outpouring of information that you didn’t know you were going to share.
  • Surprise that you shared more than you thought you would.
  • Worry, that you said too much, or said the wrong thing (it’s not possible to say too much, or to say the wrong thing in therapy).
  • Relief that the anxiety surrounding your first session has passed.
  • Uncertainty about whether the process is for you, whether the therapist is right for you, or that you’ve made the right decision to start the process.
  • Excitement for your second session.
  • Eagerness to work on any suggestions made in the first session.
  • Frustration that the first session didn’t yield the answers that you were hoping for.
  • Confusion over how this process is meant to work.
  • Embarrassment at what you shared, or that you became emotional.
  • Pride at the fact you’ve started.
  • Hopeful that it’s is going to help, and that things are going to get better.
  • Fear about what this process will reveal.
  • Nervousness about how these sessions will go on to feel.
  • Surprise at what you discovered or learned, in just one session.
  • Comforted that the environment and therapist felt safe.
  • Dubious as to whether or not you can be helped.
  • Overwhelmed by how much you have to work through.
  • Reserved about sharing the big stuff.
  • Underwhelmed, that it wasn’t what you had expected it to be.
  • Overwhelmed, that it was more than you had thought it would be.
  • Satisfied that it went as you expected it would.
  • Curious about what you’ll go on to experience.
  • Eager to tell someone close to you all about it.
  • Reluctant to tell anyone anything about it.
  • Pensive, notably more than usual.
  • Numbness, unable to identify an emotional response.
  • Indifferent, it feels too early to determine a reaction. 

Your reaction may be on the list above, you may have felt several of the example reactions, or you may have an entirely different reaction. All reactions are valid.

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