Anxiety about the First Counseling Appointment: What You Need to Know


It’s common to have anxiety and nervousness about your first counseling appointment.  Even if you’ve been to counseling before and you’re restarting again, there are still a lot of unknowns.  My goal is that this blog will help alleviate some of the anxiety, as well as answer some questions you may have.

What can I expect when I walk through the door?

My hope is that the moment you walk in the door, you instantly feel relaxed and can unwind.  Our waiting room is quiet, relaxing, and spa-like.  Grab a cup of coffee or tea, and find a magazine or book to read.  Your therapist will be out to greet you shortly.

Please come prepared

Make sure you’ve brought the items your therapist has asked you to bring.  This includes any paperwork, insurance information, form of payment, etc.  Many clients ask why they need to bring the paperwork completed to the first session.  We want you to get the most out of your first session, and it’s important for your therapist to have your information to review.  Also, we don’t want to use any session time waiting on you to fill out paperwork (which can take some time!).

What is the first session like?

The first appointment is typically an initial assessment.  Your therapist will review HIPAA, expectations, and your rights as a client.  Your therapist will also review your paperwork, and ask any relevant questions to gain information.  Every therapist is different in their approach, but I will typically ask questions like “What brought you to counseling?” or “Can you tell me what’s been going on lately?”

It’s okay if you don’t know what’s wrong

It’s not unusual for clients to not be able to pinpoint exactly what is going on.  That’s okay!  It’s your therapist’s job to ask questions and help you uncover the reasons you may be struggling.  They are trained to know the exact questions to ask and the areas to examine.

What you can expect afterwards

The first session is often a get-to-know-you session, so it may not drill very deep into the issues.  I personally will give clients homework after the first session, to get them thinking about the future and specific areas they want to work on.  It’s common for your therapist to give you frequent homework assignments or articles to read.

It’s okay to feel….

It’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed, more anxious, or shame after an initial session.  It takes a lot of vulnerability to open up to a stranger!  You may feel some regret about sharing too much or too little.  These feelings are all normal!  Fight the urge to shut down or cancel your second session.  If you continue to struggle with strong, negative emotions, it may be helpful to process this with your therapist.  Stick with it, it’s so worth it!

Written by Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW

*Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Journey to Joy Counseling. Christy enjoys doing marriage/couples counseling, individual counseling, premarital counseling. She also provides family counseling, teen and adolescent counseling.

Journey to Joy Counseling serves the Indianapolis area, including Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.