What Should I Bring to My First Therapy Appointment?
Meeting a new therapist can be intimidating, especially if it's not something you've done before. But there is nothing to be nervous about - if anything it is the therapist that should be nervous as they need to sell themselves to you, leaving you in the drivers seat in terms of if the two of you continue working together or not.
All the same, sometimes you can calm some of those "first meeting nerves" by preparing for that first appointment the best you can. Let me outline some of the things you might find it helpful to bring with you to that initial meeting so you have one less thing to worry about leading up to that appointment.
1) Know Your Info
At the first meeting you are going to have to fill out some intake paperwork, so make sure you know the relevant info like your phone number and your address. You might be saying right now "Obviously I know that info, why would I have to prepare?" But you are assuming that everyone who comes to therapy is established in their current location. For someone who just moved to the city, someone going to post secondary in residence, or someone living in a shelter, this information might need to be written down and brought along.
2) Know What You Want
One of the questions you will probably hear in your first appointment is "What are you hoping to get from therapy? What kind of goals do you have?" Knowing how to answer this can help the therapist accurately assess if their skills will meet with your needs.
Your answer could be something as simple as "I want to learn to put aside more time for myself every week" to something more involved like "I want to talk about anxiety and how it has been impacting my relationships." It could also be something like "I've been dealing with thoughts of suicide and need help staying safe." Whatever it is you want from therapy, the more open and honest you can be with your therapist the more they can support you.
3) Something to Take Notes
This one definitely isn't mandatory, but some people find it helpful to keep a Therapy Journal of their sessions, where they can write down reflections they've had, where they can keep track of progress between appointments, and where they can write down referrals or information the therapist has shared that they want to remember. Even bringing a pad of paper and pen in your bag will give you somewhere to write things down if you are so inspired.
4) Knowledge of Your Schedule
It's likely your therapist will have a few different dates and times available for your future sessions, so knowing what your schedule looks like (which days you can leave work/school early, if you are only available on weekends, if it is easiest to get a babysitter for evenings, etc.) will help the two of you to find a time that works for both of you.
5) Your Questions and Expectations
As mentioned earlier, the first appointment is your opportunity to interview the therapist to see if their style fits with your needs. With that in mind it can be helpful to consider what kind of questions you would like them to answer, and to consider what your expectations are. Do you expect them to be available by phone between sessions? Are you able to pay full fee or do you need to use a sliding scale? Do you want to know about the kinds of approaches they are trained in, or what kind of issues their clients usually come to them for? Any questions you have, this is the time to ask them.
The first appointment can bring up a lot of different emotions - excitement, hope, nervousness and worry (just to name a few). One way to help quiet nerves can be to prepare in whatever ways you realistically can. Bringing with you the above information and materials will help you get the most out of your appointment, and will leave you set up for success in therapy.