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What Should Therapists Tell Clients About Their First Therapy Session? A Clinical Psychology Podcast Episode.

What Should Therapists Tell Clients About Their First Therapy Session? A Clinical Psychology Podcast Episode.

When a client comes to a therapist and books a first session, the client will be anxious, concerned and they will have a lot of questions. This is perfectly normal but therapists might want to take the time to tell clients a few pieces of information to help them understand what’s going to happen amongst other things. These answers will help the client to relax and not be as stressed about their first therapy session. Something that will hopefully change their lives for the better. Therefore, in this clinical psychology podcast episode, we’re going to explore the questions clients have for therapists about their first session and how therapists might want to answer these questions. If you enjoy learning about clinical psychology, psychotherapy and mental health, then you’ll like today’s episode for sure.

This psychology podcast episode has been sponsored by Social Media Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and library systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.

Note: as always nothing on this podcast is ever any sort of medical, legal or official advice.

What Therapists Should Tell Clients About Their First Therapy Session?

Also, I want to note here that whilst this podcast episode is more aimed at private therapists and mental health professionals because I presume it is easier for these therapists to contact their clients. I think this is still a useful podcast episode for public sector workers because you can learn and understand our clients more. As well as you might want to adopt answering some of these questions into your own service, just a thought.

Do Therapists Offer Free Introduction Sessions?

A lot of clients who have never been to therapy before and aren’t 100% sure about its value can be concerned about the cost, so a lot of clients like the idea of having a free session before they commit to spending money.

A lot of therapists do offer free sessions in one form or another. For example, most therapists offer free phone consultations or shorter free sessions, like my therapist offers a free 20-minute in-person session. These free sessions are useful for seeing if a therapist is the right fit for you, because there is a chance that finding a therapist that is right for you is a process of trial and error.

However, I want to stress that different therapists often debate the ethics and the finances of offering free sessions, because they have to pay the bills, earn a living and they went to university or did a Level 4 course to get their qualifications. Don’t they have the right to be paid for their time, skill and work?

Therefore, whenever a therapist talks with a potential future client, it is useful to talk about any free sessions they offer. For example, I know my therapist is willing to talk to people about an alternative payment plan if they’re on a lower income.

Will Therapists Ask About Family History?

I think because I study clinical psychology, this isn’t a question that pops up for too much because I always knew the answer was yes. But some clients will not know this and they will be a little concerned about sharing aspects of their family to someone who is effectively a stranger to them.

As a result, it’s useful to share with potential clients that family history will be spoken about (the vast majority of therapists do ask about it) at some point in the course of therapy. Since it’s important to learn about any family history of depression, anxiety, addiction or any other mental health problems.

Although, it is worth noting not every therapist likes getting this information in the first session and this largely depends on their personal preference or theoretical orientation. Which I understand because some people might want to wait a session or two before getting this deeply personal and potentially very sensitive and triggering information from a client.

Is It Okay For Clients To Cry In Therapy?

I was actually rather some people didn’t think it was okay to cry during therapy, because to me, therapy is a deeply emotional process that will bring up emotions, traumatic experiences and more. I think I’ve even come close to crying two or three times in my therapy sessions, so it’s strange that people don’t think crying is okay in therapy.

Granted, I know at least in the UK, there is a lot of societal and gender social norms at play here. Like, the absolute rubbish idea that men shouldn’t cry amongst other myths, so it is just annoying that these rubbish ideas continue into the therapy room.

Somewhere that is meant to be a safe space.

Overall, it is perfectly okay to cry in therapy because the therapist will respond in an empathetic and non-judgemental way. And if crying embarrasses your client or a client wants to cry but they can’t because of an emotional block, then this might be something to explore with them in therapy.

Is It Normal To Be Nervous Starting Therapy?

Personally, I would find it really strange if someone wasn’t nervous about starting therapy, because I’ve studied psychology for half a decade now at university level (that is thought) and I know a lot about therapy. Yet I was still really nervous because as I always say, when it comes to therapy, we are asking clients to reveal their deepest, perhaps darkest secrets, thoughts and behaviours. Something that our clients might be ashamed of, and we are asking them to tell us all of these things to us even though we are effectively strangers.

That takes an immense amount of courage but it is extremely scary too.

Thankfully, we might want to tell our clients that as they get to know us, this nervousness starts to decrease and if a client still feels anxious about the therapy after a few sessions, then the client should probably talk about this with us.

I remember from my first and second lot of therapy. I was really nervous about my first lot of therapy because I had never done it before, I didn’t know what was going to happen and I wasn’t sure if this was the right thing to do. Then I was a little nervous about my second lot of therapy with a different one at the university, but both went fine and I really liked them both.

Should A Client Prepare For Their First Therapy Session?

In my experience, this really depends on the individual client because some people are happy to just go into therapy without a plan or doing any pre-work at all. Whereas I know other clients like to think about topics they want to discuss and more. As well as clients like to think about the information they really, really want the therapist to know in their first session.

Equally, therapists don’t really care if a client does prep work beforehand or not, so it might be an idea to tell a client that prep work isn’t needed. Unless the client finds it helpful themselves.

Personally, I remember when I went for my first lot of private therapy, I wrote down the following to help me prepare for my first session.

“Tell Her About

·       General family structure

·       My self-harm and suicide stuff

·       Beating threats, invalidation

·       Coming out- X for 2 weeks and invalidation and the “conditions” (I had to live under)

·       Last week

·       Guilt I feel now

What Do I Want Out of This?

·       Healthier, more adaptive coping mechanisms for dealing with negative emotions

·       Self-acceptance

·       Less guilt

·       Dealing with the lies

Protective factors

·       Podcast audience and readers

·       My close friends

·       Wanting to come to therapy

·       Me wanting an ASC diagnosis and going to continue support at university.”

Therefore, as you can see, to help me feel prepared and ready for my first therapy session I did a little bit of prep work and I thought about what I wanted to tell her. I also did a similar thing for my bunch of therapy at the university, so I wrote down the following:

“Areas Of Concern

Who am I?- feel lost now

Don’t care about degree, just doing it and unsure about future now I’ll live

Fragility and lack of resilience nowadays

Also, I want to do some work on friends and perceptions. Am I expecting too much of friendships?”

Now I have to admit it was fascinating looking at these notes because they are really good snapshots of what I was thinking and feeling in certain parts of my life. Even though they were only a few months ago to be honest, so it’s interesting and it’s great to see how far I’ve come.

Overall, I hope these short little examples have shown you and helped you to understand how some clients might want to prepare for their first session. Even though I never actually used these notes in my first sessions, but I found them useful to do at the time.

What Does A Therapist Ask In A First Session?

I was no different from any other client when I went for my first session. I had no idea what to expect, no idea what was going to be asked and it was difficult. This is why this podcast episode is rather useful for psychology students because this helps us to understand what actually happens in a first therapy session as well.

Therefore, it might be useful for clients to know that first therapy sessions are typically board brushstrokes about what has brought them to therapy, their general autobiography and then towards the end of the session, the therapist and client talk about what the rest of the sessions should cover.

In addition, therapists should tell clients, they will probably ask about the specific mental health difficulty that has made them want to come to therapy, what the client wants to achieve from therapy, any therapeutic experiences the client has had in the past and a brief life story.

Also, in the first session at the beginning, you’ll do some basic paperwork with the client for obvious reasons. For instance, my therapist got me to complete and sign a counselling contract, some medical information and she explained to me her therapeutic orientation, which I learnt a lot from and I have discussed on previous podcast episodes.

Clinical Psychology Conclusion

When it comes to psychotherapy, I will always advocate for empirically-supported therapies because they can be brilliant, useful and they can change someone’s life for the better. I am proof of that and my life is a million times better than it was before therapy.

However, this improvement doesn’t mean my first therapy session was easy. I was still nervous, concerned and I had no idea what to expect, so with this podcast focusing on psychology students and psychology professionals, I hope you now have a better understanding of how our clients might feel before they start therapy. You might want to use this information to help reassure them before their first session or not, that’s okay but you have the understanding and the knowledge and that can be a powerful thing.

Especially, when it comes to improving someone’s life by decreasing their psychological distress, giving them hope and helping them change their life for the better.


I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.

If you want to learn more, please check out:

Social Media Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and libraries systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.

Have a great day.

Clinical Psychology Reference

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