You’ve made the decision to start mental health therapy and scheduled your first appointment, what can you expect during that first therapy appointment?
First of all, CONGRATULATIONS on making the decision and advocating for yourself to beginning this path!
It can be a difficult and big step to take, but you should be proud of yourself in making these choices. As we have mentioned in previous articles, everyone can benefit from mental health therapy and you can start at any time. There is nothing to be ashamed about in utilizing additional tools and support.
Here are a few recommendations to keep in mind during your first appointment:
- It’s okay and normal to feel nervous. This is something new for you and it can be difficulty to talk about certain topics, but remember therapists are here to help!
- Nothing to be afraid of with your therapist, remember they are people too. Just have a conversation with them on whatever you want and need to.
- Ask any questions that come to mind or come prepared with questions you want to ask. You can even bring notes if that helps.
- Arrange for your time to be your time. Try and set your hour so that you can be 100% focused during your time without any outside distractions.
- Whatever you’re experiencing, share it with your therapist. It’s okay to tell them you are nervous, anxious, scared, sad, or anything else you may be feeling. That’s what we are here to help with.
So now that you have your first appointment scheduled, which is usually called an “intake appointment”, here’s what you can expect:
Most therapists, including myself start off with all the “legalities” and expectations of treatment. You should expect to hear about limits of confidentiality, mandated reporting laws, informed consent for treatment, billing, rates, and emergency services if needed.
I personally send all this information through my secure and HIPPA compliant Electronic Health Records software prior to our first appointment and just recap all the details at the beginning of our session. This saves time and gives my clients more time to discuss what they came in for.
This first appointment is to get to know you and for you to feel out your therapist to see if it is the right fit for you and your needs. It’s your time to ask any questions you would like and provide any and all the information you feel your therapist should know to help you.
During this initial appointment, which will last from 45-50 minutes, you can expect a lot of questions on both sides. This is your opportunity to ask whatever you may be thinking about related to therapy and ask related questions on how your therapist and this process will help you with your specific goal.
Your therapist may ask questions about what brought you into therapy and how you feel or would like them to help you.
For me, I take a majority of the time in session to get to know my client. I typically start off with what’s positive in their lives and what they enjoy to later revisit when it comes to building coping skills and building on existing strengths in their lives.
From learning client’s strengths and enjoyment, I move into their specific goal and challenge. We talk about how long they have been facing this challenge, what have they tried, I ask if they have done therapy before and what worked or didn’t work for them. These are all typical questions that most therapists will ask.
Typically, in the initial appointment we formulate a goal and a plan to reach your desired goal. This may include discussing on which therapy modality we plan to use, which coping skills to use, and assigning homework to practice those skills depending on your therapist’s therapeutic modality.
Toward the end of the session, we’ll discuss frequency of treatment and offer to schedule another appointment. By no means do you “have to” reschedule with that therapist if you’re not feeling it. Remember, it’s all about the therapeutic relationship. If you don’t feel like it’s the right fit for you, you can try another therapist.
If you do feel it’s the right fit and you like the process with this therapist, you should reschedule.
I typically ask my clients if they feel we are a good fit together and a good team to help address their needs. From there I recommend the frequency based on the information they shared and offer a follow up appointment. Consistency is key when it comes to therapy, if I am seeing a client, I typically offer them the same day and time so we can both build a good solid foundation in our pattern and that way you know your day and time. You can even ask your therapist to keep a solid day and time for you if you both decide weekly appointments are best.
Once again with making this decision to begin mental health therapy, you should be proud of yourself!
If you have any other questions regarding starting mental health therapy, take a look at our previous article What Steps to Take to Start Mental Health Therapy or feel free to call us for a free consultation.