September 7, 2022

How to Prepare for Your First Online Therapy Appointment

Written by Sara Lane

an online therapy appointment asian woman on laptopHow to Prepare for Your First Online Therapy Appointment

So you took the plunge and booked your very first online counseling appointment.  Congratulations! 

Believe it or not, you’ve taken a very brave step towards your mental wellness goals. As you prepare yourself mentally and physically, keep in mind that there are some ways you can be ready for change.

Keep in mind: whatever challenges you face with your therapist, you’ve done the hard work of reaching out for help. You’re on your way to the start of a very meaningful journey that could change your life.

Just remember, you’ve made it. And we’re so proud of you.

What to Expect

Whether you’re new to counseling or this is another step in your existing mental wellness journey, it’s helpful to know what to expect when you come to your first online appointment.

It may feel overwhelming to speak to someone you don’t know but fear not. Your personal counselor is highly trained and familiar with the issues you’re facing. They’re looking forward to supporting you in your goals for therapy and helping you achieve a better state of mind.

What Do I Say?

If you’re looking for answers or just need to share what you’ve been going through, it can be tough to know what to say.

Common worries for clients include:

  • “I’m worried that I’ll say too much”
  • “What if my therapist doesn’t like me?”
  • “I might not know what to say in my session”
  • “I don’t know if I’m ready to talk about that yet”
  • “No one seems to understand me…how can I trust that my therapist will?”
  • “My therapist is of the opposite gender/sexual orientation/etc.”
  • “What if I break down crying?”

These are just a short list of common feelings.

It’s important to remember that your feelings are valid.

Therapy can evoke many emotions. You don’t need to push them away – rather, allow yourself to feel and acknowledge the emotions as they come.

You may not know what to say, how to say it, or if you even can speak on what you’re bringing to the session. And that’s ok.

Your therapist will allow you to share what’s on your heart and may ask questions to help you discuss if you feel stuck. You’re always welcome to share as much or as little as you wish. We’re here to help!

What Will My Therapist Say?

You may also be wondering what your therapist will talk about in the session. While therapy is mainly focused on helping you share your thoughts and improving your mental health, your therapist may ask questions to help you establish goals for therapy.

Here are some common responses you may hear from your therapist during your session:

  • “I wonder if you felt _______ when that happened…”
  • “What was it like when _______”
  • “What brings you to counseling?”
  • “How might that experience have been traumatic for you?”
  • “Have you been experiencing any changes in eating/sleep/socializing/etc.?”
  • “How will we know when your therapy goals are achieved / what will that look like for you?”
  • “What would you like to be different in your life after counseling?”

Among many other questions.

Overall, your therapist is there to listen and support you on your wellness journey. He or she may have some exercises or experiences to offer you, depending on what you need during the appointment.

No matter what you’re bringing to counseling, your counselor wants to help you reach healthy goals and improve your mental health.

What Will Happen at My First Session?

When you show up to your first online therapy session, the first thing that will most likely happen is that your therapist will greet you and introduce themselves as your counselor.

Then, your therapist may want to get to know you as well, asking you about your friends, your hobbies, what you love to do, and what brings you to counseling.

Since you’ve already completed your intake assessment after you booked your appointment, your therapist may get started by clarifying your goals and what you want your sessions to look like.

During the first session, counseling looks much different than in other sessions. Your therapist will mainly ask questions as you walk through your intake information.

This first session may not feel like counseling, but it’s an important first step to getting your counselor acclimated as to how to best help you.

Your session may last between 45-60 minutes depending on your appointment, and will be designed with you in mind.

Your counselor may ask some questions that are hard to answer, but your story is your own. Feel free to discuss these questions at your own pace, and tell your counselor when something makes you uncomfortable.

Preparing To Rock Your First Session

As you get ready for your first online therapy session, here are some tips that can take your experience from zero to 100:

Get Plenty of Zzzz’s…

Despite the relief that comes with sharing your struggles and feelings with your counselor, speaking up about past trauma and painful experiences can be completely exhausting.

To prepare yourself to be at your best, try to get plenty of Zzz’s the night before. Snuggle up, get your favorite blanket, and settle in with a good book or movie.

Positive self-care starts with your physical care.

Depending on your mental health, you may not feel up to showering, eating well, or even getting the sleep that you need. That’s valid, and so is your struggle.

If taking a long luxurious bubble bath for a few hours feels overwhelming, shoot for what your mental health allows for. That could mean a quick 5 minute shower, or even a change of clothes.

Remember to be gentle with yourself and your ability to provide self-care. You’re doing your best, and that’s amazing.

Bring the Basics

When you’re ready to start your online appointment, these things may be helpful to bring with you:

  • A water bottle
  • Your preferred device for video sessions (mobile device, tablet, laptop or computer)
  • Comfy items, like your favorite plushies or pillows
  • A journal and pen where you can write notes
  • A list of the goals you want to accomplish during the course of therapy (optional)

Consider what you need to have on hand with you during your session. Typically, you may be too focused to want to get up and grab something from the kitchen. Instead, having things on hand for you to grab is a great way to come prepared for your therapy session.

Logistically, you’ll also want an internet connection that can handle video chat and a stress-free set up.

As a result, you may also want to consider what you don’t want to bring.

This could include anything that would prevent you from being emotionally and physically present in your therapy session.

Some examples of ways you can minimize distractions include:

  • Setting aside work or homework
  • Turning your phone on silent
  • Closing blinds or bedroom doors
  • Eating a healthy snack before your session to avoid hunger
  • Using the restroom
  • Taking 5-10 minutes to mindfully center yourself and de-stress
  • Logging into your video chat platform 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment

Making sure you feel prepared is a great way to keep stress and anxiety at bay as you start your first online counseling appointment.

Design Your Environment

Knowing yourself, it’s also important to choose an environment that works best for you.

  • Do you tend to fall asleep whenever you lay down? You may opt for a desk and a laptop.
  • Are you feeling nervous about your upcoming appointment? A more comfortable environment like a bed or couch may be a better option for you.
  • Do you tend to get distracted easily? A home environment free of distractions (as much as possible of course) may be better suited for you.

As you log in to your appointment from your own preferred space, consider what environment would be ideal for you and your schedule. 

Typically, a private space is a better option than a more public and crowded environment. Being comfortable in your environment allows you to be vulnerable with your therapist: an essential part of your first session.

You may want to design an online counseling space away from your typical day-to-day routine.
Doing this allows you to mentally and physically disconnect from the environment around you – allowing you to leave the big, heavy discussions behind you when your session comes to a close.

No matter where you choose to begin therapy, be sure to find a space that promotes positive mental health.

A comfy and safe environment is an important factor in a successful first session.

Have More Questions?

You’re more than welcome to reach out to the team at Eddins Counseling Group. We’re here to answer any concerns you may have about starting your first online counseling session with one of our Houston, Montrose, or Sugar Land therapists.

Moreover, we want to see you succeed in your wellness goals! Our mission is to help people overcome barriers in front of them, regardless of your life situation or experiences.

Your innate gifts are essential to making the world a better place. By bettering yourself and your mental health, everyone benefits as well.

You were born with unique, powerful potential and the capacity to grow. Counseling can facilitate huge changes in your lifestyle and wellness journey.

Be brave, and we wish you the best at your first online counseling session! We’re behind you all the way.

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