Your First Therapy Session in NYC → What You Need to Know

When you experience significant distress or life changes it can be daunting to begin therapy, especially when it is an unknown or foreign concept to you. Knowing what to expect from your first therapy session will allow you to come in with realistic expectations and a sense of calm needed to get the most out of your experience.

New Yorkers lead busy lives and our time is valuable, hence why we want to be prepared in order to make therapy worth our while. To help you do that we will provide you with valuable information to set you up for success in your first session with an NYC therapist.

We will give you tips on how to find the right therapist to meet your needs, understand the most common reasons people seek out therapy, and how to assess if you would like to continue after your first session. To also help you prepare, we will give you examples of what questions you can expect your NYC therapist to ask, questions you can ask them, and what paperwork to expect. 

How to Find the Right NYC Therapist Fit

While it is great that New York City has so many therapists, it can feel overwhelming to comb through all of them to find the best fit for you. Even though this might take some time, it is such a valuable investment in order to set you up for success before you even start therapy. There are logistical and emotional factors to consider when narrowing down your choice of therapist. 

Some logistical factors to consider when choosing an NYC therapist include their education and training, insurance participation, areas of specialty, and fee per session. In addition, many therapists now offer telehealth and in person sessions, so if you have a preference for one of those it would be important to clarify that. Once you narrow down those logistics and get a list of a few therapists, the next part of the process has more to do with your own experience. 

Reach out to each of the therapists and see if you can speak with them to ask them questions before you schedule a session. If you are not able to do that, then during your first session it will be important to take note of how you feel during and after you speak with them.

  • Did you feel that they validated and actively listened to you?
  • Did you feel a sense of comfort when you spoke to them?

It is important to listen to yourself and your emotional response to help you decide if it’s the right fit. It is also important to remember that talking about your mental health concerns can at times make you feel worse at first. This is because you may have some strong emotions to address and work through. 

Have questions or want to schedule an appointment?

Consider What You Want to Gain From Therapy

Many research studies have investigated the effectiveness of psychotherapy. What these studies have shown is that there are large beneficial effects for psychotherapy in comparison to no treatment. This confirms that psychotherapy is effective across many conditions and settings (Beutler, 2009; Beutler, et al., 2003; Lambert & Ogles, 2004; McMain & Pos, 2007; Shedler, 2010; Thomas & Zimmer-Gembeck, 2007; Verheul & Herbrink, 2007; Wampold, 2001).

While it is important to know that psychotherapy has been proven to help a variety of people in a variety of settings, clarifying your own individual goals for therapy is very helpful when beginning this process.  Having a clear goal for what you want to gain from therapy can be confusing at times, especially if you are new to therapy.

Some examples of questions to ask yourself that might help you determine this are below: 

  • What behaviors would you like to increase/decrease? 
  • What emotions would you like to increase/decrease? 
  • Are there specific relationships you would like to improve/change? 
  • How do you typically manage your stress/negative emotions? 
  • What is the biggest barrier to you living the life you would like to live? 

These questions are starters to get you thinking differently. Oftentimes before starting therapy, people aren’t used to observing themselves  and their  lives from the outside. Therefore, it takes time to step back and  identify your patterns of behaving and thinking. Your NYC therapist will help you do this also, but it can be helpful to have some ideas and examples to share with them. 

Common reasons for seeking out an NYC therapist include: managing symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger, personality disorders, eating disorders, weight issues, child behavior issues, family/parenting issues, relationship issues, work issues, sleep issues, and ADHD.

While it may not be spoken about, seeking out therapy is very common. According to the CDC (2020), in 2019, 19.2% of adults had received any mental health treatment in the past 12 months, including 15.8% who had taken prescription medication for their mental health and 9.5% who received counseling or therapy from a mental health professional. 

Complete Your Therapy Paperwork

Prior to your first appointment your therapist will have you read, complete, and sign specific forms. These forms often include an intake form, where you fill in your background information and information about your concerns.

In addition, a confidential communications form is also included to explain the limits of confidentiality and confirm how you would like to have your therapist contact you. Lastly, there is typically a contract for you to review and sign. This will outline the services provided, payment, insurance information, and cancellation policy. 

While it might be daunting to go through the process of reading and completing this paperwork, doing this prior to your first session will allow both you and your potential therapist to understand what to expect and what your concerns are. However, it is important to remember that you do not have to share anything with your NYC therapist that you are not comfortable with or ready to share.

After all, you are just meeting this person and it may take time for you to develop rapport and share intimate information about yourself with them. You also always have the right to ask questions about any of the forms during your first session before signing them. 

Many therapists use a HIPAA Compliant & Fully Secure EHR system where they communicate with clients through a client portal.

Have questions or want to schedule an appointment?

Your First Therapy Session in NYC

Your first session with your NYC therapist  will usually involve you sharing your concerns and reasons for starting therapy. Your therapist will ask you questions but will also allow for you to ask them any questions you may have. It is important to remember that you are able to decide what information you would like to share in your first session. The more you share the better your therapist can understand your concerns and create an appropriate treatment plan. 

Here are some common questions you can expect to be asked in your first session with an NYC therapist:

  • What brings you to therapy?
    This helps the therapist focus on your main concerns and identify your goals.

  • Have you been to therapy before or are you currently seeing another therapist?
    This helps for the therapist to understand reasons why your current or past therapists didn’t work for you or what you learned previously in therapy that was helpful. If you haven’t been to therapy before, then the therapist can spend more time explaining the process of how it works and what to expect. 
  • Is there a history of mental health issues in your family?
    Understanding your family history can help the therapist know if you have genetic predispositions for certain mental health disorders. This also provides context for the environment in which you grew up. However, it is important to remember that even if your parents struggled with a certain mental disorder, this doesn’t guarantee you will develop that same disorder.

  • What are your current sleeping and eating patterns? 
    Understanding your basic functioning is important to determine the severity to which your difficulties are affecting you. Oftentimes, changes in sleep and appetite are markers for emotional problems. 

What to Ask Your NYC Therapist

You will have the opportunity to ask your NYC therapist any questions you have during your initial session, as well as during subsequent sessions. Some questions you may have could be related to the therapist’s experience or education, what their specific approach is to therapy, whether they assign homework or not, or even clarifying how to best communicate with them moving forward.

Many clients often ask if their experiences are “normal,” which  is a valid question and your therapist can help you understand how common mental health issues really are. Additionally, clients may want to know how long therapy will take for them to see results. While this may not be something your therapist can give an exact response to, they can give you a general sense of the plan and timeline. 


Is Your NYC Therapist Right For You?

At the end of your first session, your therapist will clarify your current goals and concerns and give you an overview of the working treatment plan. If you feel comfortable moving forward you can schedule the next session at the end of your first one.

However, it is always an option to take your time to consider your options before you schedule a second appointment. You can always follow up by email or use the online system for scheduling appointments, if the therapist utilizes one.  If you believe the therapist is not a good fit for you, you can decide to not move forward.

Some questions to ask yourself to determine if they are a good fit are listed below:

  • Did I feel they were actively listening to me and validating my concerns? 
  • Do I have a good sense of what my treatment plan would be and am I generally comfortable with this? 
  • Did I feel that I could relate or develop rapport easily with the therapist? 
  • Am I able to financially afford sessions moving forward? 
  • Is the therapist able to see me for sessions on the days/times that work best for me? 

Have questions or want to schedule an appointment?

Are You Ready For Your First Therapy Session in NYC?

While you may still have some hesitancy for your first session, if you’ve gotten to the end of this article then you are likely ready to make your first appointment. New York Behavioral Health makes it simple and easy for you to take this next step. Remember that you are able to decide how much to share and can ask all the questions you have during your first session.

You are also able to take time to assess whether your therapist is a good fit before committing to starting treatment following your first session. We’re here to help you find the best therapist to fit your needs. Feel free to complete our matching form or view our staff page to get to know our team.

Our care coordinators are also available for you to call at 646-599-3498, in order to help get you set up with your first appointment and answer any remaining questions. 


Terlizzi EP, Zablotsky B. Mental health treatment among adults: United States, 2019. NCHS Data Brief, no 380. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2020.

Beutler, L.E. (2009). Making science matter in clinical practice: Redefining psychotherapy. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 16, 301-317. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2850.2009.01168.x

Beutler, L.E., Malik, M.L. Alimohamed, S., Harwood, T.M., Talebi, H., & Nobel, S. (2003) Therapist variables. In M.J. Lambert (Ed.), Handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change (5th ed., 227-306). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Lambert, J.J., & Ogles, B.M. (2004). The efficacy and effectiveness of psychotherapy. In M.J. Lambert (Ed.), Bergin and Garfield’s handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change (5th ed., 139-193). New York: Wiley.

McMain, S., & Pos, A.E. (2007). Advances in psychotherapy of personality disorders: A research update. Current Psychiatry Reports, 9, 46-52. DOI: 10.1007/s11920-007-0009-7

Shedler, J. (2010). The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 65, 98-109. DOI: 10.1037/a0018378

Thomas, R., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M.J. (2007). Behavioural outcomes of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy and trip P-Positive Parenting Program: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 35, 475-495. DOI: 10.1007/s10802-007-9104-9

Verheul, R., & Herbrink, M. (2007). The efficacy of various modalities of psychotherapy for personality disorders: A systematic review of the evidence and clinical recommendations. International Review of Psychiatry, 19, 25-38. DOI: 10.1080/09540260601095399

Wampold, B.E. (2001). The great psychotherapy debate: Model, methods, and findings. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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