Entering into therapy can be a transformative experience that can help you improve the quality of your life. However, as with most journeys, the first step is often the hardest. If you’ve made the decision to consider therapy, here are some tips for finding the right therapist for you and for getting the most out of your first appointment.

Finding a therapist

  • If possible, get a referral – One of the most important aspects of therapy is finding a therapist that matches your needs. This can be challenging. If you have friends, physicians or other resources that have experience with therapy, it is often helpful to ask for a referral. Getting a recommendation from someone that knows you can be more effective than simply trying to select a therapist from an insurance panel list.
  • Check out possible referrals online – While finding the right therapist is more complicated than finding a new restaurant, you can find helpful information about therapists online. Many therapists have an online presence through Psychology Today or their own websites. This information can provide you with a helpful introduction.
  • Call and interview multiple therapists – An initial call is important for working out details such as insurance and schedules, but most importantly you want to use this call to get a feel for the therapist. Tell them a little about why you are coming in and then see if they have experience with that issue.   Does it feel like a “good fit”?

Now that you have chosen a therapist, here is what to expect when you go in for the first time.

The first appointment:

  • Getting a history –  This initial interaction will be a chance for your therapist to learn about you (issues you are having, your relationships, your coping style, education/employment) in a broad sense.  If you are in crisis, then the session will be spent working on understanding and stabilizing the crisis.  If you are coming in seeking symptom relief or improved quality of life, you will likely cover a broad range of topics.
  • Understanding “why now”? – Why are you coming into therapy at this time in your life?  What are you hoping to get out of therapy?
  • Logistics – During the first session, your therapist will do paperwork with you.  This involves understanding HIPAA, informed consent, insurance (if applicable) and payment issues
  • Ask questions – I can’t say it enough, this is a chance for you to see if this is a “good fit” for you, so if you have a question, ask it!

Therapy is an excellent way to understand ourselves and make changes in our lives.  If you decide to pursue therapy, keep the following in mind: 

  • Maintain realistic expectations – The reasons for entering therapy are usually complicated and will not be resolved in the first session.  If you have been struggling with a pattern for years, understand that it is complicated and will take some time to understand and change.
  • Give your therapist feedback – If you are having a reaction to something your therapist says/does, say so.  This is an opportunity for you to get your needs met by providing feedback and to better understand yourself and your relationships.

Everyone deserves to live a meaningful life with positive relationships and therapy can be a great way to find that for yourself in a warm and accepting atmosphere