Many of our prospective clients ask us what they should prepare in readiness for their first consultation session, and for therapy thereafter. Our response is always that a client can come as prepared or unprepared as they feel able to be because we expect to help our clients design their therapy as they go through the process. However, for those who are keen to do some groundwork, here are some suggestions on how to prepare for therapy:
1. What lead you to access therapy at this stage?
Your therapist will inevitably want to find out what led you to access psychology sessions now. They’ll be keen to find out why you didn’t come earlier or put it off until later, and to discover what the trigger was. It would be really helpful to reflect on your journey to this point and to consider what thoughts and feelings you’ve had that have prompted this referral at this time.
2. What are your worries about therapy?
Consider what worries you might have about the therapy process or worries about working with your therapist. Perhaps you’ve never had therapy before and you’re worried about other people judging you, or you have an aversion towards worksheets and written tasks. Maybe you worry your therapist will decide they don’t want to work with you, or about how the ending of therapy might be managed. Maybe you’ve had a bad experience of therapy before and you want to avoid that happening again. Our advice would be to bring these concerns to your first session so they can be addressed straightaway.
3. Reflet on your hopes and dreams
We like to help our clients dream big. We believe it’s our job as therapists to help you imagine what life could look like if you didn’t have problems and to help you get as far towards your goals as is realistic. We know a brighter future is possible for all our clients and even small changes can make this happen. It helps us to have a picture of what you would aspire to if you felt able to so that we can help you work out a feasible pathway towards this future.
4. Priority of problems
There may be immediate issues that feel like a burning priority for you to work on before other problems. If you feel this is the case, it helps us to know about them. For example, if you are hoping for help with social anxiety and have a presentation at work coming up that you want to prepare for, we need to know this so we can help you prioritise this work. It helps to reflect on whether there are any immediate concerns you would like to work on first. For many people they simply can’t imagine what problem is the most pressing and this is fine as we can help decide on what will be important to start with. It may also be that your therapist has other ideas about what would be helpful, and they will tell you about why they hold this view so you can understand their logic.
A good psychologist will always want to know about your life including your childhood, the family template that was built before you were born, and the parental model you experienced. They’ll want to know about your development and even your birth experience. The reason for this is that most psychologists believe that our early blueprint is formed in this early part of our life and this will influence our behaviour for the rest of our adult life. It’s equally important for a psychologist to establish this background for clients who have balanced, loving and supportive childhoods as it is for them to establish if you had abusive or difficult childhoods because this will equally have influenced the formation of your values base and beliefs about life. Your early family culture is always important for you and your therapist to know about.
It can be very helpful to have a rough timeline of your life in your mind. You may even have the opportunity to find out about your development from a parent or relative. For some, there are parts of their life that are ‘black spots’ and they can’t remember them very well, or it may be that some of your past feels too painful to talk about initially. If this is the case, don’t push yourself too hard to think of these times, just let your therapist know that there is a sensitive time in your life so that they can identify if they need to be cautious when asking about it. We try hard not to push our clients to disclose trauma when they aren’t ready as we know this can make them feel worse rather than better. A good therapist will help you come up with a plan to tackle trauma and it would be very unusual if it was addressed at the beginning of your therapy.
6. Pen and notebook
It can be very helpful to have a way to take notes during your therapy. This can be for the administration of your sessions, such as for jotting down appointments and homework tasks, and it can also be useful for reflections and core messages that come from your therapy. It can be amazing to look back at these messages at the end of your therapy to see what you have learned in the process. Come prepared for therapy with a note pad and pen, or the notes section of your phone can be just as useful.
Therapy can be an incredibly rewarding process and bring about significant life change and improvement. The journey towards these changes can also be difficult sometimes. Some people (not everyone) have supportive people in their lives who can be recruited to offer help and support when needed. If these people exist, it helps to be able to identify these with your therapist in advance as they can be useful cheerleaders for you in the future when they’re needed. It doesn’t matter if you can’t think of people you trust enough to help you with such private and difficult things as this will be something you can work on as part of the therapy.
8. The admin!
We always need to make sure we’ve had all your details and core information returned to us, ideally before the first consultation session but always before your second session. This is because we need to hold a file on each of our clients to ensure that we have their details in order to meet our professional practice guidance. Please make sure you return this to us electronically as soon as possible after you have received a confirmation of appointment email from us.
For more information on booking your initial consultation and how to prepare for therapy with Serendipity Psychology – get in touch with the team today.