Seeing a psychologist for the first time can feel nerve-wracking. You may not know what to expect or how to get the most out of your visit. Proper preparation can help you feel more comfortable and make your first therapy session more productive.
Here are a few helpful tips, remember, this is a potential long term symbiotic relationship, so you need to be comfortable and relaxed with the person in the room with you.
Do Your Research
- Learn about the psychologist's background, areas of expertise, therapeutic approaches, and credentials. Make sure they specialise in issues relevant to your reasons for seeking therapy. Ask yourself, would you prefer someone of the same gender to talk to comfortably?
Know Your Goals
- Reflect on what you want to get out of therapy. Set 1-3 specific goals to discuss with the psychologist like reducing anxiety, improving your mood, developing coping strategies, or help with reducing your chronic pain etc.
Make a List of Topics
- Jot down topics, events, or feelings you want to discuss. This ensures you remember key things you want to cover in the first session.
Consider Your Needs
- Think about the environment or therapeutic style that would make you feel most at ease. Do you want a more structured vs. unstructured setting? Formal vs. casual? In person or a with a degree of separation, as you may feel more comfortable in your own home setting, so a Zoom call perhaps, at least at the start? Discuss this with the psychologist.
- Note down any questions about the psychologist's approach, specialty, confidentiality policies, session format, etc. Asking questions helps you determine if they are a good fit. Therapy is not over in one meeting, think longer term.
Review Your History
- Refresh your memory on important past experiences, struggles, family dynamics, etc. Your background often provides context on mental health concerns. Or, if you have chronic pain, explain the cause thoroughly, was it an injury, was it medical, how has this affected you, your mobility, your home life and the ability to hold down your job perhaps?
- Gather any relevant documents like prior diagnoses, medical records, test results, or prescriptions to share. This provides useful background for the psychologist.
- Leave extra time to complete any intake paperwork and get settled. Arriving late for your meeting, either in person or online will cause you embarrassment and anxious, this won't help you to have a calm mind for your meeting, the early bird catches the mind worm! On the other hand, leave your self some downtime after your meeting, don't rush into tasks, chores or work. Let your mind settle so you mentally go over what's been said, did the therapist set you some tasks to follow through with until your next session?
An initial psychology visit can create many emotions. Proper preparation gets you ready to have an engaging, productive first session and start the journey to better mental health.
Like everything else in life, you only get out what you put in.