It can be hard to start therapy, especially if you are uncertain of what to expect. The stereotypes of lying on a couch and sharing your deepest secrets tends to not be reality, fortunately. But if the Hollywood image of therapy is not real-life, then what is? Here are a few things to expect, and not to expect, when attending your first therapy session.

Yes, therapy may be a good fit for you! The truth is that every session is going to look a little different and will be catered to you, your needs, and your goals. You may seek therapy for three sessions, three months, or three years, and that’s okay. Simply put, if you want to share your story with someone and you benefit from processing things out loud, then therapy may be a good fit for you.

No, you do not have to fit the definition of a mental health issue in order to seek counseling. There is an extensive list of reasons that people seek counseling – grief, anxiety, and depression are common, as well as wishing to improve overall mental wellbeing, social skills, or self-awareness. Couples attend therapy to work on their relationship, families can talk about the loss of a loved one, and individuals can work on their interpersonal skills. Your reason for seeking therapy is valid, and it’s likely you can find a therapist that fits your needs. Your experience with therapy can be tailored to what you want.

No, your therapist will likely not ask you, “And how does that make you feel?” It may be the iconic verbiage of a counselor, but don’t be surprised if this phrase is absent from your session. Your therapist does care about how you feel, but their role is to ask questions that help you process, and this may or may not include conversations about feelings.

Yes, you can be yourself. You can shake all those nerves because in a session there is literally no one you need to impress. When you are sitting in a room with no one besides yourself and your therapist, there is no pressure to say the right thing or act the right way. It’s a bit weird at first – we spend most of our days trying to conform to social standards – but it can become a space free of social pressures and expectations.