When you’ve signed up for your first virtual therapy session, you’ve made an important first step in your path to recovery. Therapy works, and virtual therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy, according to a number of robust scientific investigations.

To make the most out of your first virtual therapy session, there are a few things you should know beforehand. Having this knowledge before starting your first session can help you hit the ground running and start building the tools and skills to live a lifetime in mental health recovery.

The Most Critical Component is Honesty

The first thing to know before your first virtual therapy session is that being open and honest is absolutely critical to ensuring your therapy is effective. Too often, people fall into the trap of trying to minimize their symptoms, conceal their truth, and portray themselves as someone who has it all together.

Many people come to therapy and try to project an image of not needing therapy. They try to convince their therapist that everything is going well. They discount their own experience to talk themselves out of the room.

This is an exceptionally common experience, and it may even come naturally. When you are living with the symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma, or any number of other mental health disorders, masking your symptoms can become your default state.

You may try to hide your anguish from friends and loved ones in an attempt not to burden other people with your problems.

But therapy is designed to be the space where you can share these underlying feelings openly, without fear of inconveniencing or discomforting anyone else. Your therapist can handle it — it is their job to be able to handle it.

When you can speak candidly about your troubles, practice true honesty and vulnerability, and allow yourself to be wholly and authentically yourself in therapy, that’s where true healing and progress are made.

Therapy is Unlike Other Relationships

Another critical point to understand for your first virtual therapy session is that the relationship between a therapist and their client is unlike any other relationship you may have. Your therapist is not meant to be your friend, your parent, your colleague, or anything in between.

This is incredibly important to understand. Normal relationships have a host of unspoken rules and customs that dictate how you behave, what you say, and what you hold back.

If you think of your therapist as a friend, for instance, you may find yourself trying to make your therapist like you. You can hide certain aspects of your mental health challenges, not be willing to discuss certain situations that have given you trouble, or act in a way that isn’t truly authentic to yourself.

This could be important in a friendship, but it doesn’t serve you in therapy. The therapeutic relationship is a professional relationship. Your goals of overcoming mental health symptoms or breaking free from maladaptive behaviors aren’t furthered by seeking validation — instead, they’re hindered by it.

That isn’t to say that you and your therapist can’t be friendly, but recognizing the unique relationship between a client and therapist is critical to allowing yourself to be vulnerable, open, and honest.

Nothing is Off-Limits, and Everything is Confidential

Therapy as an institution was built to be a safe place where people can speak openly about anything in their lives. Nothing is off-limits in therapy, and you can share your deepest and most nerve-racking thoughts and experiences in your first virtual therapy session.

The law mandates that licensed therapists are bound to confidentiality with this information. They cannot leave your virtual therapy session and share what you said with their colleagues, friends, spouse, or even law enforcement.

There are a few key exceptions you should know ahead of time. Licensed therapists are considered “mandated reporters” in a few key instances, including:

  • When a client is an immediate danger to themselves
  • When a client is an immediate danger to others
  • When a client reports child or elder abuse
  • If compelled by court order to release information

The different criteria for mandated reporting vary between states, but your therapist will inform you of this information upon your first visit or during your intake.

Everything else is held in complete confidence and won’t leave the room.

Healing Doesn’t Happen All at Once

Signing up for your first virtual therapy session is a huge step, but you shouldn’t expect a single session to solve all your problems. Talk therapy takes time, and it is critical that you stay the course if you hope to see the benefits.

The work of mental health therapy relies on several distinct components. You need to build trust with your therapist to feel comfortable being open and honest.

Additionally, you must develop insight into your mental health challenges in order to be able to overcome them. And you need to practice the tools your therapist offers in order for them to take effect.

Your first virtual therapy session can still be incredibly cathartic. The unique space and relationship held in therapy can feel extremely relieving in itself — finally affording you the opportunity to speak about your challenges openly and have a compassionate and empathetic therapist help you through them.

Finding a Good Fit

During your first virtual therapy session, it’s important for you to pay close attention to how you perceive the “fit” between you and your therapist. Therapist fit — often referred to in academic literature as the therapeutic alliance — is one of the most critical components of any type of talk therapy.

Determining a fit isn’t always easy due to the unique type of relationship between a client and a therapist. Some of the key factors for a good fit between you and your therapist include:

  • You feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and emotions with your therapist
  • You feel as though your therapist is on your side
  • You believe your therapist has the right set of tools and experience to help you
  • Your therapist makes you feel safe

Finding a good fit with a therapist is a vibe check. It is a gut feeling rather than a checklist of certain attributes. Only you can determine whether you have a good fit with your therapist and whether they are the right one to help you on your mental health journey.

But remember — your therapist isn’t your friend. They may challenge you at times or force you to address uncomfortable emotions. This is part of the therapeutic process — and not necessarily an indication of a poor fit between you and them.

You Don’t Need to Stay With Your First Therapist

If you find that your first virtual therapy session hasn’t made you feel comfortable, or you simply don’t believe the therapist you met is the right one to help you achieve your mental health goals, you don’t need to stick with that therapist.

This is a common challenge in the mental health space — clients attending therapy for the first time don’t meet the therapist that’s right for them and conclude that talk therapy simply doesn’t work. But therapy can look dramatically different from one therapist to the next, and you may just not have found the therapist that’s right for you.

This idea is common in other areas of life. If you own a business and are hiring for a new position, you wouldn’t necessarily hire the first person who turns in an application. You would meet several individuals, interview them, and decide who you think would do the job best.

Therapy works in much the same way. During your first session, or even your first several sessions, you should be considering whether your therapist is the right candidate for the job. If they are, that’s fantastic. But if not, you should ask for a referral or make an appointment with a different therapist to see if they fit your needs better.

Don’t Give Up When You Encounter Challenges

The journey to mental health isn’t always easy. If you go to your first virtual therapy session and find that it was emotionally difficult, mentally challenging, or physically tiring, these are normal experiences and part of the recovery process.

Making improvements in your mental health takes time, effort, and dedication. If you give up at the first sign of challenges, you may never learn the skills to tackle and overcome these challenges in your day-to-day life.

When you come to an emotional or mental challenge in therapy, it is the perfect opportunity to examine it. Challenges in therapy are where growth takes place, and talk therapy can provide tools and skills to help you conquer these challenges and learn how to do so again and again.

It’s Okay if You Don’t Know the Rules

Reading through this list, you may feel as though you aren’t quite prepared for your first virtual therapy session. It may seem like therapy has its own unique set of rules and expectations, which is undoubtedly true. But just as importantly, you aren’t expected to know these rules in order to get help.

If you’re struggling with understanding how therapy works, the best course of action is to simply talk to your therapist about it.

They can explain their expectations for you in treatment, help you understand the mindset that is most conducive to mental health recovery, and help you learn the rules and culture of a therapeutic environment to better help you in your path to symptom relief.

Expect to Put in Effort Outside of Therapy

Many people entering their first virtual therapy session expect that all of the healing takes place in the session itself. But the truth is that therapy is only training for the rest of your life, and the true work of therapy often happens outside of your session hours.

If you are living with a depressive disorder, for instance, your therapist may certainly help you work through negative emotions or thought spirals while in a virtual therapy session. But depression is something you may experience around the clock, and you might only see your therapist for an hour each week.

In order to truly make progress, you should expect to put the skills you learn in therapy to work in your day-to-day life. This could mean homework assignments, skill exercises, or even engaging in certain activities that you wouldn’t normally do without the encouragement of your therapist.

Start Virtual Therapy at Plus by APN

Begin your virtual therapy journey by reaching out to Plus by APN and connect with one of our therapists. Our team can help you find the therapist that’s right for you, the treatment modality that fits your needs, and any other services you may need to achieve mental health recovery.

Call us at 424.644.6486, use the live chat function on our website to speak to one of our representatives, or fill out our confidential online contact form for more information.


  • Ardito, Rita B, and Daniela Rabellino. “Therapeutic alliance and outcome of psychotherapy: historical excursus, measurements, and prospects for research.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 2 270. 18 Oct. 2011, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00270
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