First Sessions Are Embarrassing for Everyone

By Cody Lee Pey, BFA, MSW (in progress)

Therapy can be extremely embarrassing, especially when the room looks exactly like an IKEA design, refurbished with pastel-painted walls, sleek but stiff couches, seemingly meaningless paintings, and plastic plants. Then, once you’ve stepped into the room, your mind frantically spins out of control for the simplest task: sitting. You have to figure out where to sit and how to sit: do I cross my legs, do I lean against the armrest, maybe I should focus on my posture, which position will make me look less insane? So, you sit down, your body contorted in a shape that prominently showcases your anxiety. But that’s okay. Most likely, the therapist is anxious, too. We’re only better at hiding it… typically. 

Then there’s the matter of the eyes. They say that eyes are the window into the soul, but you definitely don’t want your therapist peeking into the interiors of your mind. However, you don’t have any curtains to block out the light, and thus you panic about where to look. Do you look at the clock and count the seconds before you dash out? Do you stare directly into the therapist’s beady, hawk-like eyes? Or do you shut your eyes, concentrate really hard, and hope to disappear? Honestly, I prefer the last option, but that’s never happened in my experience as a client – trust me; I’ve tried many times. Therefore, you’ve exhausted all of your options. You end up watching the leaf of a plastic snake plant flutter in the breeze of the ceiling fan, unsure of what’s coming next. 

But whatever you’re feeling in a session is normal, valid, and expected. Many people have been in your seat, including myself. I’ve been in therapy for many years. No matter how many times I attend a session, I am always fearful of what my therapist might think of me. Oftentimes, however, I’m more nervous about what I will learn about myself. It’s difficult to conceptualize what a session will feel like, let alone how you’re going to divulge and process your life. However, you’re not doing it alone.

Consider this metaphor. Imagine you’re on a dilapidated bridge with missing planks and frayed ropes. Below the bridge are a thousand sharp spikes jutting out of a pool of roaring lava. Obviously, it’s terrifying. You don’t want to fall headlong. Thankfully, however, there’s a rail to support you as you journey across the bridge. A therapist is simply the rail on a bridge. Crossing the bridge requires bravery and vulnerability. Every now and then, you might look down at the spikes, misplace a foot, and almost fall. However, as long as your hand holds onto the rail and your mind stays focused on crossing the bridge, you’ll be okay. Sometimes being okay is enough; sometimes it is everything. 

Cody Lee Pey is a therapist at The Center for Mindfulness and CBT who is accepting new clients. They specialize in sexuality and gender identities; romantic and intimate relationships; and mindfulness, among others. They are passionate about fostering a creative and social justice-informed space for their clients.

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