Foolproof Guide to Your First Therapy Appt.

A few years ago, I had my first visit with a psychologist. I wasn’t feeling suicidal. I didn’t feel at all depressed. I didn’t want to rock myself back and forth in a corner pulling out my hair, strand by strand. I was actually doing well. I wanted to maintain my frame of mind and get some tools for when I did feel down and make sure I was able to combat those feelings before I was actually sitting in my room, stressed out with no edges.

The only therapy I had ever attempted was Talkspace, which is an app where you pay a monthly fee and have access to a therapist 24/7. The catch is, the therapist only responds several times a day. So, you’re left venting in a chatroom pretty much talking to yourself, or at least that was my sentiment. Following Talkspace, I finally made the jump and texted a therapist whose number sat in my phone for months because I didn’t have the courage to contact her sooner. I also made sure that I would have zero excuses as to why I couldn’t go to therapy once I was on board.

An important factor for therapy was that I saw someone who I was comfortable with. The therapist I found was a black woman, so I couldn’t create the narrative about how she didn’t get where I’m coming from. The office was also close to my job at the time, so I couldn’t calculate how much gas I was losing by going to a session. Finally, I made a commitment to the price. I made a reasonable price in my head that I was willing to pay and justified it by making therapy my self-care which I decided was essential to my well-being.

Since I was in such a great place, I also made a list of things that I wanted to talk about. I started by revisiting times in my life when I was down and made a note of my triggers. The main things I wanted to address involved the loss of a family member a few years prior, my relationship with my parents and my tendency to shy away from confrontation. It was a lot easier to evaluate these things because I had a clear mind and my judgement wasn’t being clouded by emotion. I also decided I was going to be 100% honest, because why sugar-coat things when I’m literally paying for someone to sort through my issues with me.

Fast-forward to my first session. I instantly knew that I had chosen the right therapist. She had a familiarity to her that made me feel like I was going to talk to my favorite aunt. Since I have a hard time opening up to people at first, this was very important to me. After our introduction, somehow I launched into a long dissertation about my lack of positive coping mechanisms particularly pertaining to death and attachment. By the end of the session I had poured my heart out, sobbed, used up several pieces of tissue, fidgeted in the chair, and eventually felt great. At times I felt very exposed, like someone stole my towel at a day spa, but it helped me to realize that self-expression isn’t a bad thing.

All in all, if you’re feeling great but have always been curious about therapy, don’t wait until you’re having a quarter-life crisis. Pro-tips:

  1. Make a list of your triggers and major experiences that have impacted you
  2. Avoid leaving opportunity for excuses
  3. Commit!

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