What to Expect from your First Psychology Appointment
Your first psychology appointment can be stressful, frightening, embarrassing or all these emotions combined.
However, it’s also clear that seeing a psychologist has many benefits for your mental health, even if you currently don’t suffer from mental illness.
Why do people seek support from a psychologist?
Some reasons people see a psychologist include;
- Seeking support, information, or feedback
- Talking though interpersonal issues
- Explore ways to cope with emotion and/or troubling thoughts
- Exploring different perspectives about challenging situations
- Changing behavioural patterns that are not working for you
- To identify triggers for certain behaviours and how to diffuse them
How can I prepare for meeting my new psychologist?
While there is no checklist of things to do or to prepare for your first psychology appointment, there are some things to consider, depending on your circumstances.
A shift of perception
While seeing a psychologist can be daunting and new, it’s important to remember that keeping on top of your mental health is just as important as keeping on top of other facets of your health, such as physical.
If you have suffered a physical injury, have questions about your physical health, or want to set goals around your physical health, you would likely visit a doctor or another health professional.
In the same way, psychologists can help with your mental health and as mentioned above, you may not even suffer from a mental health condition to want to visit a psychologist.
More frequently Australians are realising after the repercussions of last year’s lockdown how important is it to prioritise your mental health. More of us have started to take a proactive approach, rather than a reactive one and the negative connotations that coincided with visiting a ‘shrink’ are slowly but surely starting to fade away and normalise.
Taking the first step
If you’ve never seen a mental health professional before, you can expect to talk to someone who wants you to feel comfortable and go at your own pace. The key is to be open, honest and to communicate to your new psychologist what your personal boundaries are and what you wish to gain from your sessions. This way they will be able to appropriately determine factors such as pace and types of exercises that will benefit you, not turn you away.
If you are uncomfortable with discussing certain topics with your psychologist that may make you feel uncomfortable, communicate that to them, they will respect this. If needed, they can also help you find ways to work towards or prepare yourself if you are willing to explore those sensitive topics in the future. You don’t have to feel like you need to talk about anything that might make you too uncomfortable.
There are a few ways that you can prepare for your first psychology appointment. It can be a great idea to write yourself a list to make sure you don’t forget to cover anything, especially if you are already feeling nervous.
Things that are you can include on your list are:
- Things you might want to talk about
- Goals you might want to achieve
- Habits you want to change or foster
It’s also important to make sure that you are seeing the right psychologist to fit your personal needs.
Finding the right professional for you
Some people find will the psychologist for them on their first appointment, while others may have to look around a bit longer and its ok to decide if a psychologist doesn’t quite fit your needs. You can figure out if your psychologist is the best fit for you by writing down your personal values and determining if they were met by this psychologist in the first session.
Some people will base their decision on personality, connection and the relationship, or lack of, that they are able to form with their psychologist. Others will choose based on gender and the psychologist’s specialities or types of therapy that they practice.
Seeing a psychologist for the first time can be daunting, but hopefully this article will give you a small insight into what to expect from your first appointment. Remember that everyone’s experience will be different, and never to let a negative experience turn you away from accessing help again. Once you find the right fit for you, it can be a positively life-changing experience.
Independence Australia provides free psychology and counselling sessions for people living with a spinal cord injury or disability. For more information on our psychology services, please visit our website here.
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This article is sponsored by Independence Australia, a social enterprise that provides choices for people living with a disability or other personal need, enabling them to regain and retain their independence within a supportive community.