If you’ve never undergone therapy before, you might easily assume it to be a breezy process of healing the mind just like it’s often depicted in TV shows or movies, such as the classic sitcom Growing Pains, where Dr. Jason Seaver and the patient lounging on the couch chat effortlessly. But for many who need therapy, or have already undergone it, engaging in therapy is not a walk in the park. 

About Pre-Therapy Anxiety

Many patients feel anxious before seeing a therapist, especially before their first therapy session. This anxiety is understandable because the exploration of inner worlds and sharing private matters may trigger feelings of vulnerability or being overwhelmed. 

Easing pre-therapy anxiety is crucial because pre-therapy anxiety may lead patients to withdraw from therapy, withhold information, and prevent issues from being relieved or resolved. For experienced counselors who have completed an online masters counseling psychology program, it’s essential to recognize the importance of helping clients ease their tension. As a client in need of therapy, you should first know that being willing to seek treatment is an act of bravery, and you should be proud of yourself.

So, how can you ease pre-therapy anxiety? Here are four tips for you:

1. Prepare Yourself:

Identify Your Therapy Needs:

Reflect on why you want therapy. Your goals will help the therapist devise a useful plan for the sessions. You can list your symptoms, including bothersome thoughts, emotions, behaviors, past experiences, current situations, and sources of stress.

Also, list what you hope to gain from therapy and what’s currently blocking you from achieving those goals. While you don’t have to list your worries and goals in detail, understanding the general reasons for seeking therapy will help you prepare for your first appointment.

Seek Insights from Those Who’ve Undergone Therapy:

Getting a preliminary understanding of the therapy process might help alleviate your anxiety. If you’re anxious because you don’t quite know what will happen during your first therapy session, try communicating with friends who undergo therapy regularly or explore experiences shared on online forums.

While everyone’s therapy journey is different, you might consider adopting small advice from people who’ve undergone therapy, such as wearing comfortable clothing to sessions, as some details and experiences may help you relax during therapy.

2. Practice Self-Encouragement:

Don’t Fear Asking Questions:

During or before your first therapy session, the therapist will discuss basic therapy logistics and complete relevant paperwork with you. You can proactively raise practical questions, such as the cost of therapy, insurance acceptance, and the expected number of sessions. These inquiries will help you plan for future sessions and provide opportunities to mitigate stress, whether in terms of financial or time costs.

Recognize That Showing Vulnerability Is Normal:

Many clients are not accustomed to being vulnerable or discussing their emotions. Opening up to a therapist from the get-go might feel uncomfortable. However, the more we keep things bottled up, the harder it becomes to be vulnerable. Additionally, therapists don’t expect clients to bare their souls on day one. Revealing your inner vulnerabilities is gradual, and you can take your time. 

3. Choose the Right Therapist:

Find a Suitable Therapist:

Before formal therapy begins, you can research the therapist’s areas of expertise and background to gauge whether they are more likely to assist you effectively. However, finding the perfect therapist might not happen on your first attempt. If you feel positive about therapy, safe, and listened to, these are good signs indicating that your therapist is a good fit. 

Trust Your Therapist:

Your therapist understands that psychological, substance abuse and relationship issues are normal aspects of the human condition. Anything you share with your therapist may be something they’ve heard before or even more extreme. They will keep your information confidential as well.

Except in rare cases (such as when they believe you might harm yourself or others), they cannot discuss you with anyone else without your permission. Remember, your therapist is there to help you, not to judge you.

4. After Each Therapy Session:

Celebrate Taking the First Step:

Seeking help for yourself is a courageous act. Although therapy may sound intimidating and daunting, and there’s a lot of shame associated with it, as you work through your issues you’ll discover more positive and beneficial aspects of therapy and getting help. You should commend yourself for seeking help and be proud of your bravery.

Record Your Feelings:

You can jot down your goals before therapy and note your feelings after each session. This will help you reflect before your next session. Seeing yourself progress step by step, and experiencing a sense of accomplishment and positive change, will also help alleviate anxiety before your next therapy session.