What actually happens in your First Session with a Psychologist? Tips to Help you Prepare
Coming to a Individual Counselling session for the first time can sometimes be a daunting. Just booking the appointment can be hard, let alone attending and not knowing what to expect. Let us shed some light on what happens in that first appointment to make it a little less scary and to help you prepare as best you can.
The First Appointment
You will be asked to come in 10 to 15 minutes early for your first appointment to fill out some paperwork (similar to the stuff you fill out at the doctors). When it’s time for your appointment, your Psychologist will come out and take you into at the consulting room. This room should be nice and comfortable and usually has a desk, couch (yep it’s true!) and consulting chair.
TIP: If at this point you are worried about anything regarding the room (such as being in a room with a closed door or sitting with your back to the door), please let your Psychologist know as they will be able to make provisions for this.
In the first part of the appointment, your Psychologist will go through the paperwork with you, paying particular attention to the consent form to make sure that you understand things like confidentiality really well. If you are coming in with someone else it may be good to discuss with them before the first appointment whether or not you would like them in the room with you.
TIP: Here is another point you can chat about your worries or fears about the treatment process with your Psychologist. If you don’t want to be asked something, or you DO want to be asked something – let them know this straight away so they can tailor the first session for you.
Now, just some notes on the first appointment (we call it the initial appointment). It’s structured a bit differently to the other (we call them subsequent) appointments you will attend In this session, your Psychologist will get a lot of information from you about what brought you to the appointment, what sort of things you might get up to day-to-day, a bit about yourself, your interests and hobbies. They will also ask you the nitty gritty essentials, how you are feeling, what’s going wrong and any history which could be related to how you are feeling. This is their chance to get to know you better and to find out all the things which are impacting on you feeling the way you are feeling.
TIP: It’s during this part of the session people usually becoming emotional. I mean, people who come to treatment are usually going through a lot, so they might get angry, stressed or upset. Your Psychologist is used to this – it’s our job! So you tip is to NOT APOLOGISE! You do not have to be sorry for feeling the way you feel. It is very normal to feel this way and actually, it is often better to be able to express emotion in session as this can lead to progress and relationship development between you and your Psychologist.
It is important to remember that this initial session is not like the normal session. This session focuses on getting the information so your Psychologist knows you better and so they are able to plan your treatment with what they think will work best for YOU. Because of this, there is not normally any treatment in the first session. Once they talk to you, your Psychologist will go away and look at the information you have provided and work out the ways they can help, which will be best for you. They will also factor in what your goals are and what you want from treatment of course! It is so important for your Psychologist to get a good picture of what is going on and sometimes they may need to do further assessment for this at the next session, especially if your situation is really complicated or long standing. Understandably, sometimes we want strategies as soon as possible but without a sound picture of what is happening, it is hard to provide these strategies.
What to do after the initial session…
After your initial session with a Psychologist, you may feel mentally exhausted. It can be really hard to go through everything that has been going on over the last few weeks, months and sometimes even years in one 50 minute session! Because of this, make sure you look after yourself. If you can it a good idea to do the following:
- Take the rest of the afternoon off work if you can. When we are emotionally exhausted we don’t often perform well!
- Do something that looks after you – this might be going and having a cup of tea or coffee, having a shower or taking the dog for a walk. Whatever helps you to feel better – do it! (As long as its helpful!).
- If you have someone you can have a de-brief with – do this. This could be a close friend, a family member or partner. It can sometimes be helpful to go through how you felt after the appointment and having someone there for support can be helpful.
- Rest and recuperate – take the time out to rest and recover.
Sessions after the initial will vary depending on each Psychologist’s preferred therapy and your own goals. Sessions may start with a check in about how you have been since the last appointment and then move into discussing the things that you are having difficulty with, how you may move through these things effectively as well as strategies to manage these difficulties. Sessions do involve talking but writing/drawing is also an option. Interpreters are available for those who are hard of hearing or from linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Psychologists should aim to empower you. Psychologists should make you feel heard, understood and respected. They are there to provide assistance, support and guidance for you to work through issues. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your Psychologist and you have every right to move to another if you do not. Like with friends and people in general, there will be some you click with and others you do not.
The Psych Professionals assist people with a number of different presenting concerns each day. We have over 10 different clinicians, each with their own way of working, different personality and who approach therapy in a different way. If you are looking for something specific, please be sure to let us know and we will be able to better support you in your journey towards health and wellness.