So, you made the good decision to get yourself some help. You made your phone calls. Now you're wondering what it'll be like when you finally see someone.
You've taken a great step so far. Hang in there. This can be scary if you don't know what to expect — but you can take more control of your well-being by approaching your treatment well.
No matter what kind of professional you end up seeing, there are many tips on navigating the mental health care system.
The first appointment is for your counsellor / therapist to get as much information as possible, but also to help you get comfortable. Your first visit will be different from future visits. Remember that you might feel better the next time you go.
Your therapist will ask you why you came to therapy, concerns you have, symptoms you are experiencing, etc. Just answer honestly, and feel free to ask some questions yourself. In order to prepare yourself for your first counselling session, you might think about the questions in the sample intake form, even jot a few notes to bring along. Remember this is only a sample form, but it can get you started to wrap your head around the questions and words that matter in your story.
You may also be asked to fill out questionnaires in order to help assess your situation. Before you leave, you might want to ask your mental health professional what they think the problem may be, and what they would do to help you. You could also ask them who they will be sharing your info with.
It may take time to trust the therapist. Don't feel rushed to open up, but let it happen at its own pace. Remember though, that openness and honesty about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences will help the therapist understand your needs, goals, and how to achieve these.
The first session does not commit you to working with that particular therapist. It is important to have a good 'fit' with your therapist for successful therapy. The first session will help you decide if the therapist's approach and personality will work for you.
If you don't feel comfortable, it may be best to try someone else. Remember, you may not like the first person you meet, but that doesn't mean it's a lost cause. Eventually you'll meet someone you can work with. Just keep trying.
Mostly, you talk, and they listen. As you talk and get heard, things become clearer and options emerge.
After your first session, you and your counsellor / therapist will likely enter into a pattern. Each professional has a different way of working, which may include:
- a check-in ("How are you? Or "How have you been since we were last here?")
- the main part of the session (where you choose to work on something specific you brought in or that came up at check-in)
- closing (where you prepare to leave the session and resume the rest of your life)
At any point, feel free to bring questions or thoughts you've had in between sessions. Remember, this is a partnership towards your well-being, so any and all questions you ask are important.
This happens to everyone, and is sometimes part of the process. If you think about it, counselling and therapy are hard work. It's hard to look at your life and decisions, and hard to sit still with thoughts or ideas that you may not want to have. Change is also hard work, and it's human to want to avoid it!
When thoughts of skipping your session or ditching counselling come up, check in with your counsellor. Tell them what you're feeling, even down to your not wanting to go. You will find that, again and again, this is a conversation worth having.