What to Expect in Therapy

So, you’ve made the decision to speak to a therapist, but you have no idea what to expect. Here are a few things you can look forward to in a therapy session, even if it’s your first time.

Be prepared

If this is your first session, the therapist will likely want to get some background information from you. These questions might include why you came to counseling. What issues are you dealing with that you need help with? What symptoms are you having?

While some of these questions may be harder to answer than others, therapy is a two-way street. They want to offer you the best outcome, but you have to be prepared to answer some hard questions. This means being honest and open about how you are feeling and why you are feeling that way. They may also ask about the goals you hope to achieve — essentially, what do you want out of therapy?

Judgment free zone

Therapy is a judgment free zone where your conversations are kept strictly confidential. Anything you say is kept secret between you and your therapist, except in very rare cases where you’re a danger to yourself or another person. The therapist’s office is considered a safe space where you don’t have to worry about hurting someone’s feelings, being penalized, or even damaging a relationship by saying what’s bothering you. The therapist is there to help you figure these things out and to solve these problems with you.


Typically after each session, you may have some homework to complete. Homework can range from journaling about how you feel each day to what steps you take to achieve the goals you set for yourself. These independent activities are meant to further emphasize the skills you learn during sessions, and they give you opportunities to apply these skills in real situations. Occasionally you may need to draw or write something in addition to interacting with certain people.

If something expected of you is confusing, you need to ask questions so you know exactly what to do. You should complete your activities before returning for your next session so that you and your therapist can review those activities. The therapist may ask more questions about how the activities worked for you. Were the different activities helpful? How did you feel during and after the activities? Did you have trouble getting them done?

Anything goes

There will always be topics you would prefer not to discuss. Make sure you let your therapist know what these topics are and why you may not want to chat about those at this time. You may not want to talk about your childhood or certain family members, and that’s fine, just be upfront about that when starting therapy.

Some topics may not be relevant to your current reasons for seeking therapy, therefore you don’t want to devote time to those. Basically, you want to make sure you are using your time wisely with your therapist and getting the most out of your sessions.

Therapy format & length

This depends on a lot of different things. Depending on why you need therapy to begin with, it may only take one session to solve the problem, though this is exceeding rare, or it may take several. It really does depend on the nature of the problem itself. Some clients like checking in with their therapist about updates in their lives every couple months, while others like to stay connected each week.

It really is up to what you, the client, wants and needs. Some therapists now offer therapy online via video conferencing. You don’t even have to leave your house to meet with your therapist in some cases. It really is a personal preference and based on how you want to achieve those goals.

The benefits and expectations from therapy are what you make it. It is a two-way street in that your active participation can drive the process (and overall success) of therapy. If you still need to find a therapist, typing in the keywords like “therapist nyc” or your zip code and “therapist” through a quick online search can get you headed in the right direction fast.