Your First Session

What to Expect When You Come to Psychotherapy

It’s normal to be nervous.

After all, talking to someone who is a virtual stranger about your most intimate secrets is a big step. I don’t expect you to tell me everything straight away. Just like on a first date, we will be getting to know one another.

We will sit together in a quiet, secluded room where you can be confident no-one else can hear what you are saying. You won’t be lying on a couch (although I do have a couch).

I will ask you about what has brought you here, what is going on and how you are feeling.

I may ask about your (and your family’s) medical and mental health history, whether you have seen a counsellor or therapist before and what you got out of your sessions, if anything. I will also need to know if you are taking any medications for psychological reasons. If you are seeing me under a Mental Health Care Plan, I will need to keep the referral, so please bring it with you when you come along. You may wish to keep a copy for your records.

As we talk, I will get a sense of who you are and what is concerning you.

Sometimes the verbal content of a session isn’t the most important information. Your body language, posture, tone of voice and the feelings that you have as you are talking are also very important. That is part of how I work and I try to maintain awareness of these things as well as paying attention to what you are saying.

My overall aim is to help you by encouraging you to develop self-awareness. As I tap into my sense of your body-based states and sensations, I can join with you in exploring an empathic and non-judgemental deeper understanding of what is going on and why.

In general, I tend to work in an open-ended way.

Therapy works best when you feel safe to bring your spontaneous thoughts, feelings and ideas to the session for us to reflect on and work through. We might talk about what has happened during the week and how it relates to events from the past or to assumptions, feelings and “working models,’ and your worldview.

For trauma work, especially where there is developmental and complex trauma, it can take a while to open up the experiences from the past which caused the trauma. There may not be immeadiate relief, but therapy can help you develop coping strategies and emotional regulation techniques which can assist in the short term. As the therapy unfolds, the aim is to provide opportunities to process past traumatic experiences in a safe and more controlled way.

  • Please bring a copy of your Mental Health Care Plan from your GP.

  • Please also bring a signed copy of your Informed Consent form.

  • I will ask some questions about your family, living circumstances, work and study, your history and background.

  • The first few sessions might be uncomfortable as I need to get background information and it may feel like an interview at times.

TIPS for Choosing a Therapist

  • Make sure you check your therapist’s qualifications and registration. A therapist who is a member of a professional body (such as PACFA, AHPRA, or the AASW) is responsible to that organisation. In order to maintain their registration they are required to be up to date, fully trained and they are bound by a code of ethics, so that you can feel safer seeing them.

  • Therapy is a relationship. If you don’t feel that your therapist is a good match, then you should find someone who does.

  • Ask them about their approach and how they will work with you. You should also ask what you can expect from therapy with them.

  • Remember: therapy isn't always going to be a comfortable journey. You will question and challenge your way of thinking and feeling. That can be confronting. A good therapist will support you through that process.

  • Therapy takes time, and results are hard to see at the beginning. It's like building a house brick-by-brick and takes a considerable commitment on the part of both client and therapist.

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From The Recovery Room Blog