So, Where Do You Even Begin In Therapy? Our Tips For Kickstarting The Convo

Although we talk about therapy much more openly today, it's still a true act of courage to reveal your most vulnerable personal issues to a stranger. Even broaching the topic of mental health with your parents can be difficult. But if think you would benefit from healing work and feel like now's the time to explore, we've got some great tips about how to kickstart the conversation once you're inside the room. 


Whether you search locally for an in-person therapist or hunt online, we strongly recommend researching practitioners first. Go with your gut and don't overthink it. If possible, choose three or four you like the most (consider if you need a specialist, like someone who works with LGBTQ+ clients), then set up consultations with several of them. You'll most likely need to pay for those consultations, but consider it a worthwhile investment. If you choose an online platform like BetterHelp, you're paying a monthly subscription fee that remains the same, regardless of how many therapists you try out.

Nothing's more important than vibing with a therapist who's the exact right fit for you. Good chemistry and rapport right out of the gate are the prerequisites for building trust with each conversation. Trust is the essential ingredient that can convert a stranger into a therapist. Pro tip: Life-changing therapists listen deeply and respectfully and create a safe, non-judgmental space.


How the sessions begin

That first therapy session is probably going to feel awkward and businesslike — and not just for you. GoodTherapy's blog for therapists acknowledges "If you haven't been working with clients long (or even if you have), you may feel a bit nervous before each first session." Welcome to two human beings navigating how to meaningfully meet each other for the first time.


Assuming you've chosen a therapist you believe could be a great fit, your first meeting will probably involve handling paperwork, setting boundaries, sorting out payment logistics, and reviewing an assessment you filled out ahead of time. Or you might fill out and discuss the intake form on the spot.

During an intake, a therapist might ask you what specifically moved you to seek therapy now. They'll ask if you've seen a counselor before, what you feel the problem is, how it makes you feel, and what you do to make yourself feel better. The intake is the right time to set goals about what you want to get out of therapy.

Kickstarting the conversation with your new therapist

On Up Journey, Certified Grief Counseling Specialist Angela Dora Dobrzynski, LPC identified three primary reasons people seek therapy: to vent, to heal, or to improve. When choosing what to talk about, she says, "Let it all out. Anything goes, particularly recent stressors. But many people have endless therapy sessions of venting and eventually feel like it is no longer working... This is often when people quit therapy, saying, 'I just felt like I was talking to a friend, and I have friends for that.'"


If you're there to heal, Dobrzynski suggests, "Start with whatever is most distressing to you at the moment or seems to be most impacting your present life. If you've suffered trauma, EMDR might be helpful, as well as other healing modalities such as meditation or visualization techniques." You might want to upgrade to healthier food, drink, and exercise habits, improve your relationship, or create more fluent, natural conversations with your partner about your sex life. Tell your therapist that so they can help you with concrete tools. 

Simply launching into a sensitive conversation is intimidating. Consider bringing a list of areas that concern you the most right now like work stressors, communicating with a loved one, relationships, or coping with feeling sad. If it's a subject you hesitate to talk about with anyone else, that's the perfect place to start. 


If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.