What Happens in Therapy Sessions?

Many people are apprehensive about starting therapy because they’re unsure what it will be like. This is especially true for first-time clients.

They may also have unrealistic expectations based on hearing about therapy in the media or from friends and family. Here’s what typically happens in therapy sessions:

Your Therapist Asks You Questions

Your therapist will likely ask you questions to help them understand your needs and how they can best work together. They may ask you about your background, family history, symptoms, and previous experience with therapy to help determine what kind of treatment might be most effective for you.

They may also ask about your therapy goals and how you plan to achieve them. This helps them understand your thoughts about therapy and what you hope to gain from it.

Depending on your therapist and their therapeutic approach, they might also ask about your relationships with others. They can use this question to assess whether you feel supported by your support system and if any issues need to be addressed.

You may also be asked about your work and personal life, including any responsibilities to your children. The therapist can then use this information to help you determine the best way to schedule sessions or address any family issues that must be worked through.

You Talk

Knowing what to discuss with your San Jose therapist for the first few sessions can be challenging. 

Some therapists like to start with small talk, which is a way of breaking the ice and getting to know one another. But it is not a requirement. If you want to skip the banter and get right into it, that’s perfectly fine.

Your therapist should encourage you to discuss what is happening in your life and why it makes you unhappy. They will also listen to your thoughts and feelings and help you make sense of them. It’s also OK to talk about the good things too. After all, that’s what therapy is supposed to be about. Plus, where else can you shamelessly brag about how much you love your new haircut without anyone giving you a side-eye? That’s what makes therapy so unique.

You Listen

Listening like a therapist involves more than just tuning into your client’s body language and tone. It requires an open, non-threatening, and engaging body language to show that you are fully present with them.

During active listening, your therapist will likely repeat some of what they hear back to you in their own words, providing their interpretation or understanding (paraphrasing). They may also use physical touch, facial expressions, gestures, and posture (e.g., maintaining eye contact, sitting with an attentive posture, leaning in at crucial junctures) to convey that they are fully engaged.

When they listen to you, they will refrain from asking questions until it is time for you to speak. In addition, they will try to avoid making comments or judgments and only offer opinions when asked. You can build healthy relationships by actively listening and being sensitive to mental health needs.

You Ask Your Therapist Questions.

The first session can be emotionally draining, mainly as you discuss your deepest thoughts and feelings with a stranger. Being anxious and unsure of what to expect is normal, but don’t hesitate to ask your therapist questions.

The right questions can help you feel more comfortable and provide information about your therapist’s approach to therapy and how they might handle certain situations. 

Be sure to ask your therapist about their confidentiality policy, which varies. It’s important to know if they will share your session notes or other confidential information with anyone without your consent unless there is a clear danger of harm or state or federal laws require them to report concerns. Ask how long each session lasts; this can be a helpful tool to keep in mind while planning your schedule. It would be best to ask your therapist whether they accept insurance and have a sliding cost schedule. This can save you time at the end of each session regarding providing payment.

You Discuss If It Makes Sense To Work Together

If you’re considering psychotherapy, it’s important to remember that therapists are different and that what happens in therapy sessions depends on your needs. But the main thing is to be open and honest. If you’re not, you may need help to make progress.

It’s also helpful to be prepared for your first few sessions. Make sure you have a babysitter or can organize a session during your lunch break at work, for example. If you have a family, talk to them about your plans and be prepared to explain why you want to start therapy. Doing homework between sessions is also helpful, such as documenting your thoughts in a journal or practicing coping skills outside of therapy meetings.

And finally, remember that feeling anxious about starting therapy is expected. But don’t let this deter you from making an appointment. Whether you’re dealing with a mental health condition or want to learn how to manage your emotions better, therapy can be an invaluable tool for improving your quality of life.

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