Beginning Therapy for the First Time

By: Narges Khazraei, MA, RP, CCC 

Finding a therapist and attending therapy for the first time can be daunting! Here are some helpful tips and facts about therapy that can help to ease your mind as you take this step:

Some things to keep in mind… 

Therapists are trained professionals who will offer you support based on your needs and goals. Therapists’ training and education have some areas in common such as the ethics that they follow, applying a non-judgmental and accepting approach toward a client, and showing empathy and understanding. 

At our clinic we have both Registered Psychotherapists and Registered Social workers, all of whom are highly trained and experienced in providing psychotherapy. You can read more about the differences between the types of mental health professionals in our FAQ: 

In addition to the differences in the types of therapists, there are also a variety of therapeutic modalities and approaches that different therapists may apply. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps clients become more aware of their beliefs and thinking patterns and how those thoughts may impact their mood. Emotion focused therapy (EFT) helps clients identify their core emotions, and process and express their emotions in a safe way. Your therapist may have different modalities that they use for different presenting concerns. If you’re interested in a specific therapeutic approach, check the therapist’s bio and discuss it with them in the first session.

Starting therapy… 

You’re always welcome to ask your therapist questions about the modalities they use, their training, or their professional background. You can do this in your first session or, if you prefer, a 15-minute phone consultation prior to scheduling your first appointment. Therapists usually ask for permission when applying a new intervention, but you may also ask the rationale, the purpose for the intervention, and how it is meant to help you. It’s always helpful to let your therapist know about your therapeutic needs.. For example, if you prefer to have more time and space to talk, share, and express yourself during the session, let your therapist know that you’d prefer  a less guided, free-form session. At the end of your first session, many therapists will offer a summary and a loose agreement on what you’ll work on in therapy and what approaches they’ll use.

What to expect during and after therapy…

Some therapy sessions may be calming, relaxing, and even fun. However, in order to move toward lasting change, you may need to be present with and discuss some difficult experiences. In this process, distressing memories, trauma from the past, and uncomfortable emotions associated with them may arise. You are always allowed to let your therapist know if you are feeling overwhelmed during the session, or if you prefer not to answer a question, or explore a certain topic. You are always encouraged to have personal boundaries around what you discuss in therapy; but knowing that it is common to experience some uncomfortable emotions during and after some therapy sessions may help you be more prepared.

Sometimes in therapy, your therapist may focus on something or reflect something back to you that doesn’t quite fit. If your therapist focuses on some aspect of what you described, but you prefer to focus on something else, you can always  let your therapist know, and redirect the discussion. Often, your therapist will summarize or paraphrase what you described to show you empathy, understanding, and also to check if what they received was what you were intending to communicate. If what your therapist says does not completely match what you meant, we alway welcome clarification!

In summary…

The therapeutic process is meant to help you and we encourage asking questions and letting us know about your needs, comfort level, and what you think may be helpful to you. If you’re interested in starting therapy or have any other questions about the therapeutic process fill in our contact form or reach out to us to