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What you need to know when seeing a psychologist (for the first time)

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Summary

•It is normal to feel nervous or anxious before seeing a psychologist for the first time.
• The first session will generally be an introduction, where the psychologist will go over their style and how they work. They will also explain confidentiality limits and do a general check-in of why you’re seeking therapy.
• The therapist may ask about what brings you to therapy, your thoughts and feelings on the matter, as well as any background information that may be relevant. You are not obligated to share anything you’re not comfortable with yet.
• Towards the end of the first session(s), the therapist will provide a brief summary of what seems to be the problem and how it might be tackled in future sessions together.
• If meeting online (telehealth), know that this research-backed method is just as effective as face-to-face therapy and that your conversations are confidential and secure.

You’ve decided to see a psychologist, and booked in an intake appointment, now what?

Well done, it takes courage and a leap of faith to reach out to a psychologist, particularly for the first time. It is “normal” to feel nervous or anxious leading up to the appointment. So, to help you sit with those uncomfy feelings leading up to the appointment – I have outlined a bit of what can you expect from the first session(s). 

Introductions 

My therapeutic style is generally quite unstructured as I like to see where sessions take us. However, the first sessions will generally follow a sort of road map. I will begin by introducing myself, how I work, and the rough outline of the session. After the confidentiality spiel, which outlines limits to confidentiality (e.g., risk, or legal reasons), it will be all about you!  

What ails (you)? 

Often, I will start by asking you what brings you to therapy, but some people may prefer to start by describing their personal history, and then when they feel more comfortable will describe what is troubling them. There may be certain details or parts of the problem or story that you do not feel comfortable discussing at the first session, and that is okay – it is all part of the process. 

Ways to describe the presenting difficulty may include: 

  • When the difficulty started, its course or typography (times when it eased or increased); 
  • How you have dealt with the difficulty, what’s helped, or what hasn’t helped; 
  • Why you think the difficulty started, or what you think is the cause of it; 
  • What are the associated thoughts or feelings; 
  • Frequency, intensity, and duration of the difficulty; 

It is okay if you have no answer to the above examples/questions. Part of therapy is gaining insight, and it may change, or the real or underlying problem may surface throughout the course of therapy. 

What’s your story? 

We all have a narrative or life history. I want to hear all of yours, but as I said above, there may be parts of your history that you do not feel comfortable sharing at first. When you feel more at ease in the therapeutic relationship, there may be a time that you want to take a risk and be vulnerable. This may be sharing a part of your story that is particularly painful, taboo, or has led you to feel shame. My job is to be present, sit with you, and hold space, as we bear the unbearable, together.  

Aspects that you may wish to share about your history: 

  • Education/work/study, relationships at work 
  • Family, and relationships between family members 
  • Your interests, hobbies, or skills. Or, what gives life meaning 
  • Medical history or health beliefs, including hospitalisations, or significant illness/injury 
  • Lifestyle aspects (e.g., sleep, drugs, alcohol, exercise, medication) 
  • Childhood or developmental history 
  • Previous engagement in therapy 

The road ahead 

Towards the end of the first session(s), I will provide a brief summary of what seems to be the problem that we will tackle together and how this may be achieved. My approach is quite unstructured so bringing what is on your mind to sessions to explore works well for me, and my job is to keep track of the bigger picture and how what we are discussing relates to the presenting problem. It is important to remember that therapy takes time and being in therapy is not enough – it requires work and participation from both the patient and the therapist. That is why feedback is key to making sure we are on track.  

Telehealth (telepsychology) 

Is telehealth effective, does it work seeing a therapist on a screen?  

It gives people access to services that they may not have previously been able or felt comfortable accessing. Research into telepsychology (even before the COVID pandemic) shows that it is effective and just as effective as face-to-face therapy.  

Is it secure? 

I use power diary’s telehealth feature, which is a secure platform. You can read more about it here

During the first session(s) I will write notes, so I can remember important details. If we are meeting online, you may not be able to tell. Although there may be times that I look like I am zoning out – don’t be alarmed, I am probably typing your pet’s name! 

After the first session, you may feel drained, or uncomfortable feelings may have been stirred up. It is generally a good idea to do something nice for yourself, or even just acknowledging whatever you’re feeling is a great place to start! 

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More information 

If you would like to learn more about therapy or book an appointment, please contact me via the contact page.

 

 

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