Addressing mental conditions is not an easy journey. Although talking to a friend or a relative helps one to feel good and relieve stress, the help of a specialist is required to identify the root cause of the problem. One needs to find a therapist who gets them and is ready to delve into the deeper issues without bias. However, not every therapist can help everyone out there.
Before committing to therapy, a person needs to connect well with their therapist. The first therapy session is crucial in choosing the counselor. Unlike common misconceptions, one will not start delving into childhood traumas and all the issues affecting them. The first appointment is to help the patient understand if they have an emotional match with a therapist and whether the professional is best suited to listen to them and challenge them respectfully.
From this article, you will know more about how the first therapy session usually goes, what questions you may want to ask, and what the therapist will ask you about. Let’s get started!
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The First Visit Offline and Online
Visiting a therapist’s office is similar to visiting a regular doctor’s office. There are procedures that you are required to follow. One must sign in when they arrive at the office and wait in the waiting area until their name is called. Before starting the therapy session, one is required to fill in the following paperwork:
- Insurance details
- Medical history
- Current medications
- Health Insurance Portability and
- Accountability (HIPAA) forms
- A symptoms questionnaire
- Therapist-patient services agreement
- Record release form
The approach might be slightly different if the therapist operates via telemedicine services. In this case, you can just sign up on the chosen website, book an appointment, and join the video visit at the set time. Before the appointment, you might be asked to provide personal information, such as an insurance number and other documents. During the visit, the process will go similarly to an office-based one. You will answer standard and personalized questions and tell about your symptoms, their impact on your well-being and day-to-day life, and other related aspects.
A good therapist will make the first therapy meeting patient-oriented. They will encourage the patient to ask questions about the specialist’s training, experiences, and the used techniques. These questions create trust as the patient will get a scope of who they are working with.
Questions from the Therapist During the First Session
The first therapy appointment provides the therapist insight into who they will be dealing with and what they will be expected to do to address their patient’s mental condition. The most common questions asked by the therapist cover the next factors:
- What are the patient’s symptoms?
- How long has the patient experienced these symptoms?
- Has the patient ever been to therapy before?
- What does the patient feel is wrong in their life?
- What are the patient’s current living conditions?
- What is the patient’s occupation, family, and education history?
Questions to Ask During the First Therapy Session
Mental treatment is as crucial as physical treatment. Therefore, one should not shy away from asking any question they have. Some of the most common and essential questions to ask the therapist are:
- How can the therapist assure patient-doctor confidentiality?
- How long will the sessions last?
- How many appointments are expected to address the condition or manage the symptoms?
- What happens during the sessions?
- What is the therapist’s experience with patients with similar conditions?
- Will the patient’s beliefs affect the therapy sessions?
Below, we’ll look at some of these points in detail.
Essential Factors to Discuss During the First Therapy Session
Since the first therapy appointment is for the therapist and the patient to make acquaintance, the two need to discuss important factors that will guide all the sessions. These issues are:
Length of Therapy Treatment
Every mental condition, such as depression or insomnia, has an estimated timeline for the treatment period. Although this timeline can change depending on the patient, the therapist should inform the patient of the typical duration of counseling.
The two will then develop a personalized timeline for the patient depending on the starting point and the therapy goal. If an insurance company covers the bill, the plan will also affect the length of the treatment. Some insurance providers stipulate the number of sessions covered annually.
A licensed mental health professional will tell how long it may take to manage your symptoms or get rid of them.
Visiting the therapist for the first time, most patients are wary of all their private matters being aired in public or to other family members. The therapist must maintain doctor-patient confidentiality even when dealing with a minor. This privacy can only be breached when the life of the patient or a person involved with the patient is at stake. Even then, there are laws protecting the patient, and the information on the patient is only provided to an officer of the law.
Therapy Procedure and Methods
All therapists are equipped with knowledge of different techniques to help their patients manage their conditions. On the first day of therapy, the therapist provides an outline of the methods they will use with the patient. This way, the patient will know what to expect during the sessions. Some of the commonly used approaches are:
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT connects one’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and actions, which helps the patient better understand what motivates their behaviors. After this, the patient will work with the therapist to change the negative thinking patterns and emotional responses. This technique effectively addresses issues like depression, troubled relationships and couple problems, eating disorders, and anxiety.
This type of therapy is similar to individual talk therapy. Its main aim is positive reinforcement and conditioning behavior that affects one’s life negatively. In this technique, the therapist offers no suggestions but allows the patient to express themselves freely. The therapist is there to provide a safe space for the patient to talk about their problems without any judgment. However, when the patient reaches out for help, the therapist will offer it. The method offers solutions to dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, and anxiety.
This technique is also known as psychodynamic therapy. Therapists use this method to allow patients to get in touch with painful emotions in their unconscious minds. After connecting with these feelings, the patient can work through them with the therapist’s guidance. This technique is used to address psychosomatic issues, low self-esteem, depression, and relationship problems.
This method’s main focus is the current issues that the patient is going through. With the therapist’s help, the patient will find better ways to address these challenges. The technique’s main aim is to understand the context of the patient’s unhappiness and life instead of finding fault and blame in the past. This form of therapy helps to solve the problems related to relationships, low self-esteem, and depression.
Having the first appointment with a therapist can make one nervous since one doesn’t know what to expect from therapy. However, you should feel free to ask questions. It could be helpful if the patient prepares some short notes on what to talk about in the first therapy session. Therapy is as essential as every other medical treatment, and you should not shy away from seeking help to address a mental condition.