What should I bring to my first therapy session? Here's a checklist

For some, the first therapy can be a surprise. We’ve made a checklist of things to bring, topics to cover, and ways to be prepared for your first therapy session.

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WRITER
Jan 4, 2022 UPDATED
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While some of us are therapy veterans, those who are new to therapy may not know what to expect. If you fall into this latter camp, it can be a surprise when you learn how much information your therapist is going to want before you even get to the issue or concern that brought you to therapy in the first place. We made this checklist for you, the therapy newbie.

(It’s important to note that these are questions that are typical of an initial session with a therapist. You might find you have to provide more information, and your therapist might postpone these intake questions until after you’ve decided to move forward. This is just a starting point.)

  • Your medical history, including major illnesses and surgeries you have had and present conditions

  • All current medications (medication name and dosage) you’re taking; some therapists also want to know about over-the-counter vitamins or supplements you use

  • Your primary care physician’s name and phone number in case you and your therapist decide it would be helpful to be in contact with your doctor

  • General information about your health habits—do you exercise? smoke cigarettes? get enough sleep? etc.

  • Any family history of mental health issues on both maternal and paternal sides, if you know it

  • If you have been to therapy in the past, be sure to have handy that therapist’s name along with the dates you saw them

  • History of suicidal thoughts or attempts

  • History of substance abuse

  • What your support system looks like—do you have friends or family you can talk to about your issues 

  • Mental health symptoms you are experiencing; for instance sadness or depression, anxiety, problems eating or sleeping, grief, difficulty sleeping, anger, irritability, aggression, fatigue, problems concentrating, poor impulse control, or other issues 

  • Your goals for therapy; what specific things do you want to achieve in therapy?

  • If you plan to pay with insurance, bring your insurance card(s)

Some tips for success

Your therapy journey will be the most effective and successful if you...

  • Recognize that treatment will not fix you; you must fix you.

  • Recognize that it may not help you feel better right away.

  • You feel at ease with your therapist and have faith in them.

  • Have trust in the process and hope for the best.

Article originally published Mar 26, 2021. Updated Jan 4, 2022.

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