by Liz Wallenstein, LMHC

Feel awkward scheduling a therapy session because you don’t know what to do in one? Here’s what to expect from a first meeting with a therapist:

Most therapists will consider your first meeting with them a consultation session. In this session they will want to hear from you what it is you are looking for help for. As the therapist listens, they will interject with questions. Some of the questions will be to clarify what you are struggling with, but a lot of questions will be so the therapist can learn more about your life currently, as well as your history. At this point, the therapist is looking to put a picture together of what your life experiences have been and how they’ve contributed to who you are today. Even though this session is a lot of information giving, with a skilled therapist many clients already find this experience to feel healing and helpful.

Most therapists today do not have clients lie on a couch, like you often see on TV or in comic strips. Most will have you sit across or diagonal from them. The only therapists that may have people lie on a couch are ones referred to as ‘psychoanalysts.’ They do it because they want you to share freely, and not be inhibited by looking them in the face or seeing their facial expressions.

Research shows that the number one indicator of successful therapy is the relationship between the client and the therapist. Clients should use the first session to get a feel of what it would be like to work with this therapist and if it appeals to them. Clients should feel a sense of being understood and that they will feel comfortable opening up to this therapist and being themselves, before scheduling another session with them.

While many therapists don’t take notes during a typical session (they do after), most will take notes during the first session since they want to be able to remember the details you are sharing about your life. Other things that may happen in a first session include making sure there’s a time that works for both of your schedules ongoing, informing you of any policies they have such as a cancellation policy, and completing forms with basic information such as your address. Often times there will be more to discuss then there is time for in one session. For this reason, the consultation phase may last two to three sessions.

After hearing from you, the therapist will let you know if they feel their skill set and expertise are the right fit for your needs. In the chance that they don’t feel they are the right fit for you, they may be able to refer you to a therapist they think will be. If both therapist and client agree to being the right match, they will schedule the next appointment.

If you’re in the Brooklyn NY area and want to schedule a consultation session with me, Liz Wallenstein, to see if therapy could be helpful to you, please call me at 917-727-3549 or visit the Contact page of my website.


This article was written from the perspective of a psychodynamic therapist.

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Liz Wallenstein, LMHC, is in private practice in Brooklyn, NY. To learn more about her approach to therapy, or to receive a free copy of her special report “How Therapy Can Change YOUR Life, for the Better!” visit