Have you been thinking about starting therapy? Unsure how to select the right therapist for you? Or perhaps you’ve already scheduled your first appointment. You may still have questions about how this all works. People often want to know what therapy is really like and what to expect when they go to their first appointment.

In this post, I’m sharing my responses to the most common questions that I’ve received as a psychotherapist.

The following information will simplify the process.

If you have other questions, please contact me. Email: shayda.nematollahi@gmail.com

Q: Why therapy? Can’t I just talk to my friends and get the same advice? 

Leaning on friends and family certainly can be helpful.  That said, therapists are professionally trained to help you explore and discuss your difficulties and develop solutions to your particular problems. They have expertise in helping you express and evaluate your feelings, focusing entirely on you without bringing their own needs into the mix.

Psychotherapy is a treatment process that is often very useful in helping people cope with their problems.  Meeting with a therapist provides you an opportunity to receive feedback from a licensed professional who is skilled at listening and providing guidance.

Q: What should I talk about?

You are free to talk about anything that you’d like to share with your therapist.

Not sure where to begin? 

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Talk about how you decided to begin therapy (i.e., Did something happen recently that led you to seek counseling? Have you been thinking about doing this for a long time? Did a loved one encourage you to begin therapy?)
  • Share your feelings about beginning therapy. Are you excited, nervous, ambivalent?
  • Share how you feel now that you’ve arrived to your counseling session: Were you rushed getting to your appointment? Are you comfortable? Do you feel nervous, relieved, curious?a
  • Talk about whatever comes to your mind.  Sigmund Freud called this “free association,” which is the process of sharing whatever pops into your head in the moment when you’re sitting in your therapist’s office.

Q: Will my therapist ask me a lot of questions?

This depends on the style and training of your therapist.

Some therapists will conduct an “intake” as the first session, in which they ask you questions about topics like family background, mental health history, physical health, education, career, and substance use history.  Other therapists wait for you to begin talking or they’ll begin the session with a simple question like, “So what brings you in today?” Your first session with me would start as a “intake” and move on into what brings you to therapy!

There isn’t a right or wrong approach.  You want to find a therapist whose style fits with your personality.

Here is what’s most important when selecting a therapist:

You should you feel that there is a good fit between you and your therapist, and you should have a sense that you can trust and openly express yourself with the therapist you’ve chosen.

Q: What if there are topics I don’t want to talk about or I’m not ready to share?

That’s not a problem! If your therapist asks you a question that you don’t want to answer, just tell him/her that you’re not ready to discuss it.  Perhaps, you can circle back to that topic down the road once you’re ready.

Q: Will my therapist judge me?

Therapists have a great deal of training on developing a nonjudgmental stance.  Your therapist should provide a safe, accepting space in which you feel free to explore all types of thoughts and feelings.

Throughout their training, coursework, clinical supervision, and their own therapy, psychotherapists become experienced at keeping their opinions and feelings in check as they work with clients.

They are trained to thoughtfully and carefully listen with an open mind.

Of course, therapists are human beings with their own opinions and beliefs.  Keep in mind that some therapists provide religion-based therapy, and usually they state that on their website.

I am not affiliated with any religion and I am open to working with all lifestyles.

Q: What should I do if my therapist upsets me?

If your therapist upsets you, you should bring it to his/her attention.  Even if you wait until a later session to bring it up, it’s better than trying to ignore or avoid it.

If you feel that you’re being judged or criticized, let your therapist know.  For example, you could say something like, “In our session last week, I felt like you were judging me when I told you that I smoke.  Can we talk about that?”

A well-trained therapist will be able to respond empathically to you and will be open to exploring your feelings about the interactions between the two of you.  Often, a direct conversation about your interaction can enhance your work together long-term.

Q: How long are the sessions? 

This depends on the particular therapist, but typically sessions range between 45-60 minutes.  At TRU Integrative Health & Wellness, individual sessions are 50 minutes.  If you want a longer session, I can accommodate.

Q: How often will I meet with my therapist? 

While the success of psychotherapy depends on various factors, one of the most important is continuity of sessions.  To be most useful at the beginning, sessions with your therapist usually take place at least on a weekly basis. With time, sessions may take place every couple of weeks, depending on your needs and your therapist’s approach.

Q: What if I have other questions that aren’t covered in this post?

Feel free to contact via phone 678-814-8417 or email shayda.nematollahi@gmail.com