7 Tips For Handling Your Anxiety About Starting Therapy

One challenge in getting psychotherapy for anxiety is that often people are too anxious to go to therapy. After all, beginning therapy involves making phone calls to find a therapist, going to a new place, telling a stranger about your feelings, being vulnerable, and talking about your anxiety — all things that might make people too anxious to do it.

Here are tips for how to deal with the anxiety about starting therapy.

  1. Remember that it is normal to be anxious about starting therapy. It would be strange if you weren’t anxious.
  2. Know that your therapist might be anxious about a first session too. The therapist is anticipating getting to know you, wanting to be helpful, and wondering whether you will work well together. You don’t know each other well yet so the therapist doesn’t know for sure what will be supportive for you. It’s anxiety provoking for the therapist too.
  3. Get support if you can. Have a friend drive you to the appointment or pick you up. Arrange to check in with someone about the first session and talk about how it went. Make a plan to reward yourself for doing the hard thing by treating yourself to a dinner out with friends or a cozy movie night at home.
  4. Try telling your therapist you are anxious about the first session. Remember, your anxiety is normal in this situation. If anxiety is one of the issues bringing you to therapy, then you want to see how the therapist supports you when you are anxious. If that support is helpful for you, then that therapist might be a good match for your needs.
  5. Remember that you are hiring the therapist, not the other way around. The therapist is working for you. If you do not like the therapist, you can decide to not return for another session. You can ask whatever questions you like to find out whether this therapist is the right one for you.
  6. If it makes you feel more comfortable, bring a list of the issues you want to discuss and the questions you want to ask to the first session. You are not expected to do this but you can if it would make you less anxious.
  7. If you have a painful past that you would like to talk about, be aware that the first session is not the time to do that in depth. There is not enough trust built up with a new therapist yet to support your talking about bad things that happened to you. You should not be expected to disclose all your feelings and history in a first session and, if you are asked to, you can simply say that you don’t feel comfortable talking about it yet.

Many people start therapy every day and you can be one of them. Take the first step towards feeling better. You can do it.

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