What to Expect in your First Few Therapy Sessions

Coming prepared is the first step.

We’re so glad that you’re looking for more information about therapy. Stellar Pro understands going to therapy for the first time can be a daunting experience. You may have a lot of questions about what to expect in your first session.


If you’re new to therapy, you may be nervous about starting. You may not know what to expect during your first session. You may be afraid or embarrassed to talk with a new therapist about your feelings, thoughts, or personal history. And you might feel uncomfortable discussing the topics you’re most afraid to discuss.

In this article, we will explore what happens during a typical therapy session and how you can get the most out of your first few meetings with your therapist.

Importance of your First Therapy Session

If you have been thinking about getting professional help, then your first few sessions with your therapist should be as beneficial as possible. How your first session will go exactly depends on your therapist. Some like to dive right in and begin a conversation. Others may prefer a more formal or structured session.

Your first therapy appointment might feel a little awkward because it is your first time getting professional help. If you have felt that therapy was lacking in the past, don’t get discouraged by your session! Remember to keep your eye on the prize!

Your goals for therapy should be multifactorial in scope. This can include talking about your feelings and emotions, setting healthy boundaries, encouraging healthy communication, and identifying important changes and increasing your resilience. Your therapist will help you determine which goal to focus on first. We’ll go into goal setting a bit more in detail below.

Your first therapy session will be focused on understanding these goals while your therapist gets to know you. It can be helpful to write any problems you are having down so you don’t forget to mention something. But it’s okay if you do forget! That’s why you’ll be going to multiple sessions.

Getting ready for your first therapy session

Getting ready for your first session with your new therapist can be intimidating if you don’t know what to expect. If you feel nervous that’s okay! Feeling nervous is perfectly normal during your first few therapy sessions.

We’ve put together a few do’s and don’t for therapy.


Be honest. Tell your therapist if you’ve had past therapy, as well as why it didn’t work for you. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to let him or her know. This will help your therapist determine the best approach for you, and it will give you a chance to let him or her know if things aren’t working for you. You can also express that you’re nervous because you’re not sure what to expect!

Ask questions and be open to suggestions. Anyone can tell you that therapy won’t be like anything you’ve experienced before, but that doesn’t mean you have to blindly accept it. It’s important to ask questions, and your therapist will be happy to answer accordingly. It’s also a good idea to be open to suggestions, since many therapies are based on what works for others.

Be patient. Therapy takes time to be effective. Expecting instant results is not something you should do when starting therapy.

Come prepared. Write down anything you want to discuss during the session. This helps you not forget to mention something. If you have a journal you would like to share with your therapist, bring this as well.


Expect therapy to make you happy overnight. Therapy is not a magic cure-all but rather a treatment plan. It requires a lot of hard work and ongoing effort to achieve your therapy goals.

Tell your therapist what they should do. Therapy is about you but they are the experts. If something isn’t working for you, voice your concern but do not dismiss things upfront.

Expect to have all your problems solved in one session. Therapy takes time. Sometimes people only need a few sessions. Other times you might need therapy long-term.

Skip sessions. It might be tempting to sleep in and miss therapy but missing sessions can hurt your progress. Only miss sessions if you absolutely have to.

Online vs In-Person Therapy

Therapy can be done from anywhere if you’re doing telehealth (online therapy). If you are, it’s best to find a private and quiet place to have your therapy session from. This can include an office, bedroom, closet, or even your car. If you live with other people, you may find that a white noise machine is helpful to help muffle your voice. The main benefit for telehealth is you do not have to worry about traveling to an office as it can be done from the comfort of your own space. If you’ve moved to another state, your therapist may be able to continue to see you via telehealth depending on their licensing.

If you’re doing in-person therapy, your therapist will provide a private, suitable space for the sessions. This could include a couch to lay down on, a white noise machine, tissues, and maybe even some stuffed animals for comfort. Each therapist’s office is unique. If you’re concerned about people overhearing your sessions then in-person therapy may be a better option than online therapy. The main benefit of in-person therapy is being in the same room as your therapist. Some therapists prefer this over video.

What Happens In A Typical Therapy Session?

Online and in-person therapy typically works the same.

In general, therapy sessions last between 60 to 90 minutes, with about 60 to 75 minutes of actual therapy time. You will be doing most of the talking during your therapy session but expect your therapist to ask you questions.

Your first few sessions will be establishing your therapy goals. These goals will be revisited periodically to ensure you are making progress. Your therapist should ask you if there is anything else you would like to work on as you have more sessions and reach other therapy goals. We’ll  talk about goal setting in a bit.

Once you’ve been seeing your therapist for awhile and goals have been established, your therapist will be checking in on your progress towards these goals and your overall mental health. Therapists take notes. They should be referring back to these notes during your sessions to see what topics should be discussed.

Setting Therapy Goals

It’s important to set short and long-term goals for yourself during your therapy sessions. This can help you stay motivated and focused on the purpose of your session.

Therapy goals don’t have to be grandiose but you should have specific results you hope to achieve.

You should start with a broad goal and work on narrowing down your goal. If you’re familiar with SMART goals, therapy goals follow the same principals. You and your therapist can discuss if setting a goal date is right for you.

Still not sure what your therapy goals should be? Talk to your therapist! They will be able to help you figure out what goals they are uniquely equipped to help you with.

Have Realistic Therapy Expectations

Once you’ve set goals, you should have realistic expectations of what you can expect from therapy. Therapy isn’t a magic pill or quick fix. It’s a long process that requires time, focus, and patience.

You and your therapist are working together to discover how to address and heal from the issues that are causing you frustration.This is a process that can take time. Expecting instant results and not getting these results can lead to frustration. If you feel like you aren’t making any progress during your sessions, talk to your therapist about how you are feeling about your goal progress. 

Therapy is most effective when you have a clear understanding of what to expect. For example, if you’re hoping to resolve a specific issue, make sure that you know what that issue is. If you’re hoping to feel better overall, it’s important to know what that means. That’s why when goal setting it’s important to make achievable goals. We covered goal setting in the previous section.

A brief refresher is that your therapy goals should be SMART goals: smart, measurable, achievable, relevant, and optionally time-bound.

What should I do after my first therapy session?

You may be feeling a lot of emotions after your first therapy session. It’s healthy to take a moment and process these emotions. Journaling is a therapeutic way to track emotions and help organize your thoughts. Perhaps your therapist said something really meaningful you want to be reminded of. Or maybe you want to let go of a negative thought you and your therapist worked on.

Take time to yourself. Even though it was just your first session, take time to yourself. You did something really impressive and that’s worth celebrating! Grab a cup of coffee, watch a movie, or take your dog to the dog park. No matter what your “me time” is, make sure to have it.

Practice techniques your therapist taught you. It might have only been your first session but your therapist may have given you some basic strategies. Try these out! Write down what you’re struggling with or have questions about for your next session.


Starting therapy is a big step. It’s okay if you are nervous, that’s normal! Therapy isn’t about judging you, it’s about making you the best version of yourself and healing. If you’re still unsure of what to expect, reach out to your therapist’s office. They may be able to provide more specific information about what will happen in your first few therapy sessions.

Ready to start your therapy journey? Stellar Pro is here to help. We’re the only directory that verifies clinicians’ advanced training and expertise to help connect you with a highly qualified therapist.