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  • Writer's pictureKira Lynn Laurin

Frightening First Session – How Encountering Therapy can be Scary at First but...

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

You search far and wide for the right therapist, finally take up the courage to book an appointment… now what? The concept of therapy can be frightening and eluding, so much so that people can avoid it despite being a long-held desire to open up to a trained professional. Why is it so anxiety-provoking to approach a therapist and how can one overcome it?

Firstly, approaching a therapist can be at times scary not only because you are entrusting yourself to what amounts to a stranger but also because therapy is a process that often eludes people. We have seen how media portrays therapy and what a session can look like but it is a skewed perception; much like how mental health and mental illness are portrayed.

Let’s take a moment to demystify what therapy is like:

  1. Typically, the first few sessions are dedicated to an intake process: the therapist will ask you about your background, what brings you to therapy, and establish goals, while this is the perfect opportunity for you to understand how your therapist functions. If you are unsure of the process, don’t hesitate to ask questions to your therapist.

  2. Therapy can tackle a wide range of topics surrounding mental health and wellbeing. You may be struggling and seeking support at the moment; that doesn’t mean you will struggle in perpetuity.

  3. Therapy combined effort. Goals are set collaboratively. Sessions are conducted collaboratively.

  4. A therapist is bound by a code of ethics. To be registered as a psychotherapist in Ontario, a psychotherapist must uphold a set of ethical principles. We must practice in our scope of practice, we must uphold autonomy and do no harm. If you have more questions about a registered psychotherapist’s ethics, you can learn more on the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario website at

  5. You are not committed to one therapist. If it isn’t a good fit for whatever reason that may be, you can move on from your therapist and ask for a referral.

First sessions can be at times frightening but you have made the first step by approaching a therapist. Therapy can be the perfect place to explore difficult feelings, discuss your struggles and strengths, and a therapist can offer support. But what does a first session look like? Some therapists offer a 15-minute free phone consultation (you can always inquire if a potential therapist offers this). Take this time to get to know your therapist. Your therapist will also assess if they would be a good fit for you. Fit is important and exploring this in the consultation or the first session is important.

Once the appointment is made for your first session, make mental note (or even by writing it down) of what brings you to therapy, what are your goals, might ease you into the first session. Therapists function differently depending on their treatment modality (for instance Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Emotion-Focused Therapy) but in general, therapists are gathering information about your background so that they can better support you. This process is called an “intake.”

Goals will be established towards the end of the first or second session. These are fluid and will be re-evaluated from time to time. It allows for both yourself and your therapist to orient yourselves in session.

Hopefully, this post has eased you in to your decision in taking this first step. If there is anything to take away from this post, the fit is important. Well actually, if there are two things you can take from this post is that first sessions may be frightening because of the unknown but taking the time to feel for the fit and feeling comfortable to ask questions can ease you more.

Take good care,

Kira Lynn Laurin – Registered Psychotherapist Qualifying

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