How to Prepare for Your First Therapy or Coaching Session

Lambda School recently announced that, effective immediately, we will be providing mental health and wellness benefits to all students and staff. These benefits include up to 6 virtual visits a year with a professional coach of their choice, as well as up to 6 visits a year with a licensed therapist, at no cost. 

While scheduling your first session with your coach or therapist might seem intimidating, we hope that understanding the process of working with a mental health professional will help you feel more comfortable. Here are a few frequently asked questions we often receive from the many new users who are trying coaching or therapy for the first time: 

What is coaching? What is therapy? What’s the difference? 

The primary difference between coaching and therapy is that therapy is conducted by licensed mental health professionals who are trained to treat clinical difficulties (e.g., depression, anxiety) whereas coaches work on non-clinical issues (e.g, personal growth and professional development). 

Therapists can have a variety of titles (counselors, therapists, clinicians, etc.). What they have in common is a masters degree (M.A., or M.S.) in clinical psychology or a related field and are licensed in the state in which they practice. Common licenses include Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). These therapists are also trained in the assessment and treatment of mental health concerns. 

Coaches work with individuals to help them create the kind of lives they want. While there is no specific degree or license required to practice as a coach, Modern Health coaches are rigorously vetted, certified, and trained in evidence-based approaches. All coaches have completed extensive training and are certified by the International Coaching Federation.

Modern Health’s belief is that anyone can benefit from working with a coach, and some people need therapy in addition to, or instead of coaching. If you are experiencing a clinical need such as depression or anxiety, Modern Health will recommend working with a therapist. You can also work with your dedicated coach to determine if you would benefit from therapy.

What can I expect during my first coaching session? 

Coaching is focused on helping you make important changes in your personal and professional life to help you lead a happier, healthier life. Modern Health’s  coaches are here to collaborate with you and support you in organizing your thoughts, emotions, and goals. During the first session, your coach will kick things off with an introduction to what coaching is and what you can expect during the session, including reviewing confidentiality (nothing you discuss is shared with Modern Health or your employer unless you request more support or need crisis resources) . They will then ask you a few questions to better understand what you hope to get out of the coaching experience and what a successful experience would be for you. By setting expectations up front, the coach will be able to better help you identify personal goals and take steps towards achieving them.

In subsequent sessions, the coach will follow up on any action items to understand their impact and you will together come up with next steps.  

The standard coaching session is 30 minutes and takes place over video, usually every two weeks or once a month.  In between sessions, you are encouraged to reach out to your coach with any follow up questions or advice via Modern Health’s digital messaging tool in their app or web interface. 

What can I expect during my first therapy session? 

Similar to coaching, therapists will start each session with an introduction and review of expectations and confidentiality to make sure that you feel comfortable with them and the process. They will then ask you a series of questions to get a better understanding of your symptoms and background to best identify how you can work together to achieve your goals.

After this initial assessment, they will work collaboratively with you to formulate a treatment plan and review different methods to help you address your needs (e.g. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy). They will likely give you some follow up action items that you can take away from the session. 

In follow up sessions they will review specific action items and alter your treatment plan based on your needs. Typically, therapists visits will be 45-50 minutes in length and occur in person or via video, often weekly. 

How should I prepare for my first session?

Before your first session, we encourage you to ask yourself a few questions. These can help guide your initial conversations with your coach or therapist. 

  • Where do you want to start?
  • You might have a lot of areas of interest (e.g., you want to learn mindfulness, and work on your finances). Spend some time thinking about where you want to get started before your first visit. What is most on your mind or stressing you out?
  • Do you know what your goals are or do you need help figuring that out?
  • What do you want to get out of coaching or therapy?
  • What do you want your coach or therapist to be like? Do you want someone who holds you accountable, who is a cheerleader, who challenges you?
  • How do you want your life to look when you are done? What does success look like?


Congratulations on taking a proactive step toward improved mental health and wellness! We hope that working with your new coach or therapist is a positive, productive experience. As with many other aspects of your life, the more effort you put into your coaching and/or therapy experience, the more you’ll get out of it.

To begin taking advantage of your new mental health benefits, download the Modern Health app and login using the normal signup process - being sure to use the same email address to register that we have on file for you as a staff member or student of Lambda. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can login using their web interface.

If you have any issues logging in, please reach out to /frontdesk with the subject “Modern Health Login.”

Have more questions? Learn more about your new Modern Health benefits here.

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