I know, first hand, how terrifying a prospect it can be going to therapy or counselling. Not knowing who your therapist is going to be, whether you’re going to like them, what the environment is going to be like, whether it’s going to help at all or just be a waste of money. There’s a multitude of what ifs, so it’s no surprise that so many of us are nervous about therapy.
Anxiety can cause the ‘what if’s’ in this world to dominate your every thought sometimes. Even if you no longer suffer from an anxiety disorder, like me, the very nature of those who are anxiety is bound to lean heavily into the what ifs of every situation and make you feel very mentally fragile.
I’ve had a fair bit of experience with therapy and counselling in my life, for a pretty serious (or debilitating to put it bluntly) anxiety disorder. Thankfully, I’m now more or less anxiety free (with the added help of Citalopram medication) but I know that the therapy I had and the different things I learned from the experiences definitely helped me move through my mental illness.
So, a little back story on my experience with therapy (and YES I was extremely nervous about therapy):
I started therapy back in 2012 (ish) when I first went to the doctor about my anxiety disorder. They didn’t initially offer me medication but instead opted for the CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) route. My anxiety disorder was completely new to me at this point, I had no idea what was happening to me. So I more or less went along with anything the GP said.
I had one-on-one CBT and long story short, it didn’t do much to help. The only REAL way it helped was forcing me to get out of the house once a week to actually attend my appointments. At that point in time, I could barely leave my room, let alone the house.
So I had 6 sessions which, if you have any experience with it will know, is nowhere NEAR enough to even tap close into the root of the problems.
After that obviously didn’t do anything to help, my Mum got in touch with a private counsellor. She was desperate at this point – we all were. I was a shell of a person, my whole day, life and being was CONSUMED with anxiety and I wasn’t functioning as a human being, I really wasn’t.
So I went off to this random therapist that my Mum found for me, who specialized more in talking therapy than the strict regimented textbook style CBT I had had before. And lo and behold, it was a WONDERFUL experience.
I continued to see this woman for a good few years and was slowly getting better and better, getting more and more confidence and gaining more coping techniques for my anxiety. I still believe to this day that that woman saved my life.
One FINAL quick experience with therapy was in 2018 when I was sent back, not for the anxiety I experienced before but for health anxiety (aka Hypochondria). I opted for group CBT this time but like before, the actual therapy aspect didn’t do much to help. However, I did meet one of my now best friends on that course.
So that’s a brief overview of my experience with therapy and I’ve certainly had good and bad ones. But one factor in all of them was that I was nervous about therapy. Even my last course of it, despite more or less knowing what to expect.
It’s completely normal to be nervous about therapy, for a bunch of reasons. So today I’m going to share a few important things to remember if you’re nervous about therapy along with a few tips thrown in there as well!
Tell them that you’re nervous
They deal with anxiety and mental illness 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. And if they don’t, they’re not a very good therapist.
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!
You don’t have to say anything that you don’t want to say:
I already touched on this but it’s such an important point that I wanted to include it again. Not only is it important to go at your own pace, it’s important to remember that you don’t HAVE to tell them everything and you CERTAINLY don’t have to tell them everything at that first session.
It might take a little while to learn to trust your therapist. You might get lucky and gel with one instantly and if you do, that’s absolutely wonderful. But if you want to keep your cards to your chest for a little while to ensure you trust them fully, then do that.
They’re qualified to help you:
It can be scary, sitting down in front of a complete stranger, about to bare your soul to them. But the quicker you remember that they are JUST another person, one that’s qualified to help with your very problem, the better. Just like an optician is qualified to help with your eye health.
So is it normal to get anxious before therapy? Yes. As much as you might not want to, therapy might be the answer to your problems, so be sure to check out the NHS Mental Health Services if you’re struggling and please reach out if you need to.
If you have any tips or tricks on how to stay calmer if you’re nervous about therapy , I’d love to hear them. If you’ve had therapy and feel comfortable doing so, I’d love to hear about your first experience. Was it good or bad? Let me know!
Want some more mental health content? Check out these posts:
- 8 Things To Avoid If You’re Feeling Low or Depressed
- 5 Mental Health Tips For Navigating a Job Search
- 8 Things To Do When You Get Bad News
You can also sign up to my mailing list to receive a copy of my FREE Mental Health for Bloggers Guide, along with access to my whole freebie library!
I just started my therapy journey and my first session was nerve racking. I did just blurt out what I needed to take care of first (mentally), and that did seem to work for me. However, I can see how taking it slow can help too.
Whatever works for you is always the best thing to do! Happy to hear you’ve started therapy, I hope it helps you!
[…] With both women being older than 75 in Grace and Frankie, it’s inevitable that aging will play some part eventually on their lives and what they can and can’t do. There’s various situations where characters find themselves needing help and not wanting it. But it’s taught me that whatever your age and whatever your situation, accepting help is never, ever a bad thing. […]
[…] old counselor really drilled this one into me and she was so supportive when it came to small goals. She always […]
I think perhaps it can help to remember that the therapist is likely to have had their own experience of beginning therapy and remember how nerve-wracking it can be to take that step. As you say, explaining you’re nervous can really help and, if you’re worried you might not be able to do that then writing something down can be good (even if it’s just to have there in case you get overwhelmed). There are even apps like DocReady that you can use. It’s intended for talking about your mental health at GP appointments but could be used to make a little list for a first therapy session too.
[…] Things to Remember if You’re Nervous in Therapy by Jenny […]
These tips are so good! Sometimes the idea of talking about my anxiety can be so overwhelming that I just clam up and can’t get the words out. I always bring water with me as like you said it does help. Yes I think I will take your advice and try slow down and go at my own pace, sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to say everything at once!!
[…] over at Jenny in Neverland wrote an excellent post on things to remember if you’re nervous in therapy sessions. This is such an important topic, and I read it at the perfect […]
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This is such a great post. I have never ever done therapy until recently! And it’s tough. I found that being honest and projecting my thoughts helps, so when I am nervous or self-conscious I will vocally say it to the therapist, all in all it’s been a very helpful thing for me!
Ah I’m so glad you find that helpful too, they’re there to help with very problems like anxiety and nervousness so I don’t know why you wouldn’t tell them if that’s how you’re feeling! I’m glad you’ve found it helpful so far! xx
I have never been in therapy but I know few of my friends did and they would have really appreciated reading these advice. Taking a deep breath and telling your feeling are the best way to handle anxiety i guess. Also yeah, taking it slow; Thanks for sharing. xx Corinne
Thanks for commenting, taking it slow is always a really, really good thing to do when it comes to therapy xx
Some great tips here! I am glad to see I’m not the only one that finds that simple bottle of water to be comforting and relaxing when needed!
Britt | https://alternativelyspeakingonline.wordpress.com/
Not at all I find it one of the most comforting things ever! I never leave the house without my bottle of water xx
My husband couldn’t understand why I thought my new metal water bottle was the best purchase ever lol
Hahaha I would totally understand your enthusiasm!
Great points you gave there. That would be very helpful for a first timer. I should have seen something like this before I went to my first therapy.
I was so nervous waiting outside my therapist’s office. I arrived 15 minutes earlier and she told me to wait. The wait made it even worse.
By the time I got in, all my nerves just disappeared. She was pleasant and made the whole atmosphere comfortable.
So I will add, sometimes the therapist’s personality may help with the nerves.
Oh blimey yeah the wait is almost always worse than the actual “thing” as it gives you time to build up scenarios in your head. I’m really glad you found a nice counsellor!
I was terrified about my first therapy session, but luckily, I had an absolutely wonderful counsellor. These are really good tips, I wish I slowed down though, as soon as I started talking it all just started coming out at once! x
Haha I totally get that, it’s difficult to stop sometimes isn’t it? But I guess that’s better than not saying anything at all and shows you’re comfortable with your counsellor! Thank you for commenting (: xx
Some great tips! Developing a good therapeutic relationship is essential to making good progress.
Yes, that’s absolutely true. You can’t expect to progress if you don’t like or trust your counsellor either. Thanks for commenting! 🙂 xx
I havent had ay but have been told several times in the past 10 years.I should really invest. I am just waaaaaaay to nervous to go. However if I do decide thanks for the tips. Water is a good idea! X
You should go! I know I’m only a stranger on the internet and aren’t qualified to give you advice but if multiple people thing you’ll benefit then you probably will! It’s a big step but an important one and once that initial hurdle is over, it all falls into place I promise. Thanks for commenting xx
Hi, thanks for sharing this post and putting in a positive light. Hopefully it will help others to take the courage to see someone if they need to, Chloe #TeacupClub
I really hope it does encourage someone! I don’t think anyone should look at therapy in a negative light – it’s one of the most beneficial things we can do for ourselves! Thanks for commenting 🙂 xx
This is such a perfect post and I’m more than sure it will help a lot of people 💖 I need to take on a few of these tips myself actually so thank you for the help 💖
I really, really hope it does help at least one person! I figure if you need or want therapy and know it will benefit you, you shouldn’t let nerves stop you getting the help that you deserve. I’d hate to think someone was missing out on this vital help because of nerves! Thanks for commenting 🙂 xx
This post is fab. Absolutely agree with telling them how you feel and that your nervous. Sometimes that’s all you need, to get it out there, to help calm you down.
Cora ❤ http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/
Yes, absolutely! I always feel so much better as soon as I’ve told someone I’m nervous. I do the same at the doctors, dentist, opticians – anywhere. If I’m nervous, I’m sure the professional would prefer to know! Thanks for commenting 🙂 xx
This is a really important topic. I remember how I felt in my first session, my mouth was dry, I felt like I should just walk back out and like they’d decide I was making it all up but once I sat down and took a few deep breaths, it all started to fall into place and everything was ok. The first one is always the hardest. And the last, when you feel like you’re losing the only person holding you together xx
Sophia x http://sophiawhitham.co.uk
You’ve just given me a great idea for another post! The what to do at the OTHER side of the therapy experience, when it all finishes. Because you’re so right. That can be almost as daunting as starting in the first place. It soon falls into place though. Thank you for commenting <3 xx
Excellent tips & insights!
I’d suggest with extreme nerves, bring something to put that energy (nervousness) in. A fidget toy for example, I’ve used: rocks, children’s toys, small pieces of pottery/clay shaped with edges and ridges… etc. Find what works for you!
Ooh that is a fantastic idea! I love it. Thanks for the tip and the comment! 🙂 xx
This is a really fantastic post, and really useful for anyone who isn’t sure what to expect. Therapy is fantastic, but it is also very daunting, so being able to calm down those emotions and regain control and feel comfortable is so important.
Really good post lovely 🙂
Thanks so much and I agree it can be SO daunting at first it’s so easy to let you mind wander and wander and expect the worse and work yourself up into a frenzy. It’s really important to have coping and calming mechanisms in place, whatever they are! 🙂 Thank you for commenting xx
What a great post! Bringing a positive to what some people see as a scary experience 😊
Thanks so much and I’m really glad you see it like that! I hope many people agree 🙂 xx
This is a great post with helpful tips! Luckily my experience with therapy was good, but I still hated it😂
Really needed to read this, great advice. I will be moving onto a new therapist soon and I’m getting anxious about starting all over again with a new person and I am worrying about it already. I’ll try and remember these tips before I go xx
I’m so glad you found this post helpful, Lucy. Hopefully you can use some of these when the time comes. You’ll be FINE and I hope you find a great therapist ☺️ xx
This is a great post! My anxiety is really getting the better of me lately and I know I need to go back to therapy but my anxiety is making it too hard to pick up the phone! But these are fantastic tips, sipping water is a great idea.
I actually have a post about when you’re nervous about ringing people 👉🏻 https://jennyinneverland.com/2016/06/25/tips-for-getting-over-your-fear-of-ringing-people/ you may find that helpful when it comes the time to call! But seriously, anxiety sucks and you don’t deserve to feel rubbish. Take your time and pick up the phone, you got this ☺️
Thanks! I’m going to go check out that post right now! x