Seeing A Psychologist For The First Time?

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What To Expect From Your First Session With A Clinical Psychologist

BY PASCALE POUGNET

People seek support from a clinical psychologist for a number of reasons – feelings of depression, anxiety, relationship issues, eating difficulties, work stress, just to name a few.

Don't let nerves stop you from making an appointment

Don’t let nerves stop you from making an appointment

The decision to see a psychologist can be a difficult one and the idea of talking to a stranger about personal issues can be daunting, but it can also be a positive experience. Fact is, psychological treatment can be very effective and people are often glad that they decided to seek help.

There are many misconceptions about what therapy actually is, few of them accurate. You won’t have to lie on a couch and talk about your dreams for example.

If fear of the unknown is what’s been holding you back, here’s answers to 3 common questions about starting therapy.

Question 1: How Will I Feel?

It’s normal to feel anxious at your first appointment. Just like when you go to the doctor or dentist, seeing a mental health professional isn’t necessarily something you look forward to doing. Most psychologists understand how hard it is for people to make their first appointment and should have the skills to help you feel more at ease. You needn’t feel ashamed about feeling nervous, it’s a normal feeling to have, but rather than fight your anxiety or see is as a reason not to go, try accepting it as part of the process. You might be glad you did.

Question 2: What Should I Talk About?

The first session in psychological treatment is usually an assessment session, which means your psychologist will ask you lots of questions to gather as much information as they can about your main concerns. Over the course of your appointment, your psychologist will also be looking to get a sense of how they can help you and what the best approach for your treatment might be.

Even though psychologists will mostly focus on the current problem, they may also ask you a few questions about your childhood and family background to understand your development a little better.

Some people go into therapy knowing exactly what the problem is and what they want help with. Others might know that there’s something wrong but are not sure exactly what’s wrong and are unsure how to describe their problem. A psychologist’s job is to know what questions to ask, so rest assured, your psychologist will guide your first session. And although it’s important to be as open as possible, some things are easier to talk about once you know and trust your psychologist. It’s up to you to share as much or as little as you feel comfortable to.

Question 3: When Will I Start To Feel Better?

Talking about things that worry or upset you can cause those uncomfortable feelings to the surface. This explains why some people leave their first appointment not really feeling any better. The first session is also an assessment session and not a treatment session, so it’s normal to feel like nothings changed after your first session.

The amount of time or number of sessions it takes to start noticing an improvement really depends on the problem that you’re seeking help for. With some problems like mild depression or mild anxiety disorders, you could start to notice an improvement as early as session 4, whilst other difficulties like trauma can take longer. Your psychologist should be able to give you guidance around this after your first few sessions.

Pascale is a clinical psychologist who is passionate about empowering people to create change. She is warm and empathic and is dedicated to providing evidence based psychological care. Pascale has extensive experience working with adults and adolescents with a variety of psychological disorders including depression, panic attacks, social anxiety, generalised anxiety, health anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, specific phobias, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.


 

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