What to Expect During Your First Therapy Appointment

Last updated on: May 23, 2024
Two women conversing in a modern therapy session. One is seated casually on a couch, attentively listening, while the other, in a relaxed pose, is discussing her issues

Embarking on the journey of therapy can be a transformative experience. Whether you're feeling uncertain about what's troubling you or have specific issues you wish to address, therapy offers a supportive space for exploration and healing. In Canada, where a diverse range of therapists are available, it's important to know how to prepare for and what to expect from your first therapy session. This comprehensive guide is designed to ease your concerns and help you make the most of your therapeutic experience.

Key Takeaways

  • How to prepare for your first therapy session
  • Get a glimpse of what to expect during a session
  • What happens after your first session

Preparing for Your First Therapy Appointment

Finding the Right Therapist

First step is to find the right therapist. If you are searching for a therapist, sign up for our therapy masterclass to read more in detail. 

  • Research: Look for therapists who specialize in your areas of concern. Check their qualifications, and experience. 
  • Considerations: Pay attention to factors like location, cost, and the therapist's approach to ensure they align with your needs.
  • Gut feel: Comfort with your therapist is key. Do not settle for one who you don’t feel comfortable with. 

Setting Your Therapy Goals

This is your session, your time. You can set a general objective and goal for what you want to achieve with your therapist, but also keep an open mind that each session may flow in ways you don’t expect. 

  • Identifying objectives: Reflect on what you hope to achieve in therapy, whether it's gaining coping mechanisms, emotional understanding, or tackling specific problems.
  • Creating a wish list: Note down a few key issues you wish to explore. This clarity will help guide your therapist's approach.

Gathering Personal Information

  • Medical history: Be ready to share your medical history and current medications, especially if referred by a doctor.
  • Life story: Prepare to discuss your personal history, but remember, you can choose what you're comfortable sharing. You don’t need to share everything in your first appointment. 
  • Logistics: Confirm the appointment details, and understand the clinic’s payment and cancellation policies.

Getting Ready 

Whether you are meeting your therapist in-person or online, you can still have the same connection and progress you can expect with a therapist. 

  • In-person: Confirm the location of therapist’s office, plan your commute. Arrive early and review your notes. 
  • Online appointments: Ensure you are in a quiet space where you can be undisturbed. The benefit of being home or your office is that you can make yourself comfortable. Even having pets around if it helps you feel at ease.   

What to Expect During the First Session

Your session may look different depending on your therapist, but in general, therapy is a joint effort aimed at working through your challenges. You can expect to explore your inner world in depth. Therapists provide a non-judgmental space for you to express yourself.

  • Duration: Most therapy sessions last about 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Frequency: Sessions are often weekly, but this can vary based on your needs and the therapist's recommendations. 
  • Adjustments: The structure can be adjusted over time as your needs or goals change.

The first session is often about creating a connection and understanding your background and goals. Expect some initial assessment to tailor the therapy to your needs. 

A bright therapy room with large windows showing a snowy exterior. A male client, looking contemplative and slightly distressed, sits on a couch discussing his feelings with a female therapist who is listening intently

Therapists are skilled at helping you navigate strong feelings in a supportive environment. It's common to cry during therapy as you delve into emotional topics. It's also normal to feel apprehensive about sharing personal details. Your therapist will respect your pace. Over time, trust will build, making it easier to share and delve deeper into your issues.

1. Beginning the Session

The therapist will usually start by greeting you and asking how you are doing today. This initial conversation sets the tone and helps transition into the therapy space.

Some questions your therapist might ask: 

  • What brought you to therapy? 
  • What do you hope to get out of this work? 
  • How are you feeling physically? 
  • Has anything changed recently?

2. Setting Goals

Identifying Objectives: Part of the session may involve setting goals or objectives for your therapy. This could be short-term goals for the coming week or long-term goals for your overall therapy journey.

Problem-Solving: The therapist might help you develop strategies or coping mechanisms to address specific issues you're facing.

3. Main Discussion

The bulk of the session is usually dedicated to discussing the current issues you are facing. This could be related to your emotions, recent events, ongoing challenges, or specific topics you wish to address.

The therapist may employ various techniques or exercises during this time, such as cognitive-behavioural strategies, mindfulness exercises, role-playing, or guided reflections, depending on their therapeutic approach and your goals.

4. Wrap-Up and Closing the Session

Towards the end of the session, the therapist usually summarizes the key points or insights from the session. This helps reinforce what was discussed and ensures clarity on both sides. Some therapists may offer grounding or breathing exercises to calm the nerves and emotions. 

Next Steps: The therapist may suggest things to think about or work on before your next session. This could include specific tasks, reflection questions, or mindfulness practices.

Scheduling Next Session: If you haven’t already scheduled your next appointment, this is typically when you'll discuss and set the date and time for it, but you do not need to feel pressured to book it right away, or at all. There's no obligation to book a certain number of sessions.

Post-Session Reflection (on your own)

After the session, it’s beneficial to spend some time reflecting on what was discussed, how you felt during the session, and any new insights you gained. You may want to ensure you are not going straight back to a stressful activity and give yourself time. Some therapists may suggest calming activities such as breath work, meditation, a bath, or a walk.


Starting therapy is a brave and positive step towards better mental health. By preparing for your first session and knowing what to expect, you lay a strong foundation for a successful therapeutic journey. The right therapist can make a significant difference, and your active participation is key to achieving your mental health goals. Most importantly, know that therapy is a safe space. Start your search today. 

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About the Author

First Session Editorial Team

The First Session Editorial Team, composed of seasoned researchers, writers, editors, and therapists, focuses on providing content that helps​ Canadians find the right therapist.