Prior to my first therapy appointment I was mortified. I contemplated cancelling because the thought of opening up to a complete stranger about things that even some of my closest friends didn’t know, gave me so much anxiety. Not only that, I’m the type of person that as soon as I even think about sharing my feelings I begin crying. Literally. I’m very much consumed by the way people perceive me (which I’ve been working on), especially strangers — I always want to make the best impression. But of course that shouldn’t be the case with a therapist, they’ve seen it all. So I had to put that pride aside and lay it all out there. At least — I thought to myself, if it was too overwhelming or if we didn’t click I would just never come back. I don’t know her, so I’d probably never see her again. Fortunately, however, it was quite the opposite.
Prior to going in, my therapist sent over a very long and detailed questionnaire. It inquired about everything from my physical history, to how I was feeling about my current job, relationships with family members, emotional status and more. So needless to say she was quite up to speed upon my arrival, so that took a bit of the pressure off.
As expected, I cried within the first 2 minutes, but it felt good to release to someone who wasn’t like “gweeerlll, that’s so sad but let me tell you about my day.”
Although we had only just scratched the surface during that initial session, I instantly felt better. Often times we live with situations in our head for so long that when we do actually release them it’s not only a load off, but we can sometimes figure out why it effected us so much in the first place. Not to mention, just saying things out loud can help in figuring out a way to either try to fix it or simply move forward.
I decided to tap into the lovely Madison S. Myrick, clinical social worker and therapist once again to get her input on the best ways to prepare for your first therapy session and what to expect once you’re there. I hope this helps to ease that worry before your appointment, or maybe even give you the push necessary to schedule it (and not cancel, ha!).
What are your tips for someone preparing for their first therapy session?
Tips I would provide to someone preparing for their first session:
- Tell the therapist what brought you to therapy; tell your story
- Ask about logistics, regarding payments options, insurance questions, or financial agreements
- Ask about the therapist’s treatment modality, method of treatment
- Ask questions. Therapy is new for you so do not assume anything
- Talk about your expectations from therapy and from your therapist
- Prepare to be open and share uncensored thoughts
- Write down any questions or concerns beforehand
- It’s okay to be nervous and unsure about the unknowns of therapy. Talk about those feelings with your therapist.
What are some common misconceptions that you feel people have when they first begin therapy?
A therapist is supposed to meet the client where they are. As a therapist, I want to know what brought you to me and how you want to move forward with what brought you to therapy. The common misconception is clients believe they will be “healed or fixed” in a few sessions. Give it time, set goals and expectations in the first couple of sessions.
What are some signs that you have found the right therapist?
I think signs that you have found the right therapist are when it feels natural to you and you are comfortable. Go with your gut.
What are some signs that you may need to look into a new therapist?
I always encourage clients to work through their feelings about their therapist with their therapist. If you already have and you still feel that you are holding back, feel that therapy is a chore, become too dependent on the therapist, feel the therapist violated your boundaries, the therapist appears distracted or not engaged to routine sessions or overall is not meeting your expectations in a reasonable time fame, then it may be time for a new therapist.
What advice do you have for someone who may have had a bad / unfavorable therapy experience and is considering not going back?
I would say it is great that you still have hope. Therapy is great but it’s not the easiest hurdle to jump, especially if you did not have a pleasant experience the first time. I would encourage those considering their return to therapy to fully vet their therapist. Find exactly who you want until it’s right for you. Finding the right therapist is just like find finding the right doctor, dentist, or hair stylist. It may take time to fit exactly what you are looking for, but continue to be encouraged in your process.
About Madison S. Myrick
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” – Maya Angelou.
Life is full of twists and turns. However, you can build resilience and empower yourself by recognizing your strength and committing to your own well-being. It takes courage to seek help, do the work, and move forward – I commend you and welcome you!
I attended Howard University, where I earned my B.S. in Health Science in 2009 and Master of Social Work (MSW) in 2012. Throughout my practice I have enjoyed working with adolescents and adults. As a military spouse, I understand the idea of the unknown, tough transitions, relationship and family conflicts, and / or how trauma can take a toll on a person. It is important to me to guide clients to find their path. We will work collaboratively to heal old wounds and alter your perspective to positive thinking patterns. Together, we will develop effective coping skills to meet major life transitions head on, along with encouraging positive interactions and supportive relationships in the process.
I focus on the areas of major life transitions, Trauma, PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, relationship issues, interpersonal conflicts and military transitions. In addition, my therapeutic approach combines cognitive-behavioral, humanistic, psychodynamic and solution – focused therapy. I’m passionate about helping clients reach their full potential, and I’m committed to making your therapy experience holistic, productive, and positive. Let’s work to establish a strong state of wellness so you can thrive through adversity.