The first trip to the therapist’s office is a fantastic first step in the journey to being a more fulfilled, happier, and better person.
However, beginning therapy can be daunting for some, especially those who seek treatment for issues such as anxiety.
Many people who could benefit greatly may partly avoid it due to uncertainty about the process.
Below, we will go over what you can expect your therapist to ask during the first (and even later) sessions!
Introductory Therapy Questions
Therapists use open-ended questions to get you talking. You will rarely hear a therapist ask a question that can be answered by a yes or no.
Open-ended questions help the therapist to get to know you and how you think and are essential to them working out how to best help you.
While some people may struggle with these open-ended questions, they are essential to the process.
Do not feel you need to answer immediately. Have a moment to think about the question first and don’t be afraid to tell the therapist when you don’t know the answer, as that may also be telling.
Why are you Seeking Therapy?
When you first walk into the therapist’s office, you can be sure to be asked some form of this question after they introduce themselves and explain a bit about their process.
Asking what brings you to therapy is a crucial way to get things started.
The therapist needs to determine why you have come to see them to plan out the direction of treatment required to achieve these goals.
Some clients may feel they do not know the answer to this seemingly simple question.
Perhaps they think something is wrong, but can’t quite put their finger on it! Maybe they want to improve themselves, but are unsure of more specific goals.
It’s ok to give a general answer. A skilled therapist is adept at asking follow-up questions and getting to the root of the issue, even if it takes many sessions.
How is your Relationship with your Family?
The therapist will want to know about your support network at home, and whether you have people that support you and your goals, or if you will need to manage your journey with just their help.
It will also give them a starting idea if strained family relationships may be partly the cause of the problem.
This will be particularly important for young therapy seekers who rely more heavily on family for their basic needs to be met. When we get older, friends can become more important to the equation.
As we build families of our own, that question is quite different. It may not be “Do you have parents that can support you” but more “Are you able to support the ones that depend on you?”
Talking about family relationships can be difficult. It’s good to be honest right out of the gate, as dealing with these issues can be crucial to getting better.
How do you Deal with Stress?
Whether or not stress is the issue for you coming into therapy, the therapist may ask this question.
It will reveal much about the person, including their current coping skills, how well-adapted they are to difficult situations, and any negative habits they may have picked up.
The therapist will take this information and determine if your coping skills are serving you well, can be expanded on, or need to be changed completely.
For instance, someone who copes with stress by drinking, overeating, or playing a video game for 12 hours straight may need to learn healthier coping habits.
Those with negative coping strategies may resist change and may not want to admit their vices.
Perhaps these negative habits have even crossed the line into addiction! These are particularly important to discuss with your therapist.
Other Common Therapeutic Questions
These questions may occur during the first session or any other time in therapy. The therapist will, at this point, be digging deeper into the issues at hand.
How Does This Problem Typically Make You Feel?
It’s become something of a joke how therapists will always ask, “How does it make you feel…”
The question has become a stereotype, and yes- it still is very commonly used, even if rephrased. However, this isn’t lazy therapy. It’s commonly used for a good reason!
Many will complain about being asked this question in therapy, and they even dread it.
This type of self-examination can cause some anxiety, while others may find it disruptive when they want to focus on the events or actions of others surrounding the issue.
Go into therapy understanding that there is a reason for this question, and it’s important to the process.
We rarely check in with our feelings, and being asked this in therapy gets us to look at the issue from a different perspective and trains us to be more reflective in our lives outside of the therapist’s office.
What Makes the Problem Better?
This question may seem odd at first. If you are talking to a therapist about an ongoing problem, you are likely looking for solutions from them.
If you could make it better on your own, wouldn’t you?
We all have some method of dealing with problems we have. Likely, we haven’t yet found the ideal solution, but we have found something to help us cope.
For example- say the client has a demanding work environment, and every day she finishes with a high level of stress.
Once home, she talks to her husband about her day. She tells him everything frustrating that happens, and at the end, she feels a bit better.
This may seem like a good solution to her. She is expressing her feelings and not engaging in any self-destructive behaviors.
But could this damage her relationship over time?
Does her husband have to take on her stress when he has his own to deal with?
Is there a way to keep her stress levels low during the day, so she isn’t white-knuckling the steering wheel on the way home?
The client may never have examined this possibility. It’s not necessarily a destructive coping skill, but the therapist will work with the client to figure this out.
How Connected do you Feel to the People Around You?
This question can give the therapist valuable information about how the client sees themselves in the world.
Whether they feel on the outside of a group or always at the center, how connected a person feels to others reflects a lot about their self-worth and sense of place in the world.
It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous about starting therapy, and about the type of therapy questions that you might be asked.
You may find the idea of talking about personal issues with a stranger awkward, or worried about what it may uncover. You may just simply not know what to expect!
Some of us cope with this type of anxiety by overpreparing.
While it’s fine to want to know what kinds of questions the therapist will ask, therapy is very individual. Try not to predict what your therapist will ask you or practice responses.
The therapist will lead the conversation and get clarification as needed. The more you can just be yourself and be honest, the better your therapy outcomes will be.
These questions can seem simple, but they can elicit incredibly powerful and revealing responses. Every therapist should know how to ask them in order to help their clients get the most out of therapy.
Thanks for reading!
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