I recently wrote a post on why I love therapy. But I’ve not always loved it. My first private therapy session was agony. I was super ill that day, I had a rotten cold, I’d been asleep practically all day and I woke up around 2 hours before I was due to leave and I felt really dizzy. I also couldn’t eat anything because I was so nervous and it was in the middle of summer and was boiling hot. So all around, a perfect cocktail for your very first therapy session with a brand new therapist. I have never felt nerves like that before, I literally couldn’t function. But coming out of that session an hour later, I felt like an entirely new person. Nervous? Me? Not a chance.
I know, first hand, how terrifying a prospect it can be going to therapy or counselling or whatever you want to call it. Not knowing who your therapist is going to be, whether you’re going to like them, what the environment is going to be like. Is it in their house? A centre? An office? What happens if I have an anxiety attack? What if I can’t talk? What if it’s a waste of money or time? What if, what if, what if. Anxiety can cause the ‘what if’s’ in this world to dominate your every thought sometimes. So today I wanted to write a little post on things you should remember if you’re about to embark on your first therapy session. Or even if you’re on your 3rd or 4th but still find yourself incredibly nervous about going.
Tell them that you’re nervous: They probably deal with anxiety every single day of their working lives; they know that many people who walk through their door is going to be anxious as crap. So tell them. It won’t be anything new to them and they will be able to take the correct steps to then ensure your anxiety is kept at bay.
And tell them exactly how you’re feeling at that moment in time: I told my therapist in my first session that I felt very ill and rough and she was very accommodating to that. Not just mentally but emotionally and physically too, if you’re not feeling 100%, do tell them.
Take a bottle of water with you: Water is my saving grace sometimes. I find water very relaxing and often, when I’m anxious, I’ll take sips of a bottle of water which I always keep in my bag. Ask if they mind if you can drink it throughout the session; chances are they will be fine with it and if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and have a drink. Keep yourself hydrated.
Open a door or window if you’re feeling trapped, hot or claustrophobic: I get super hot when I’m anxious. And I find it incredibly difficult to cool don. Oh and did I mention my therapist always had her heating on like, full?! I always asked if she would mind opening a window to get some air in the room and it always made a huge difference. If you can, and feel like the extra air or space will keep you calmer, then ask.
Take it slow and go at your own pace: It’s so easy to ramble and ramble through what’s bothering you at therapy sessions because you just want to get it all out, not miss anything out and basically get it over and done with but it’s so important to take things at your own speed. They can’t force you to say anything and they definitely can’t force you to say anything you don’t want to say. So if you need a minute to sit, think and reflect, then do. They will understand and will accommodate to your needs.
Remember that you’re there for your own benefit: You’re not there to punish yourself – you’re there to help yourself get better, understand yourself more and be open to honest and professional advice so you can constantly improve your own mental health. If you can try and banish the idea that counselling is intimidating, scary and negative then it’ll help so much in the long run!