We appreciate how daunting it can be to seek professional help and open up about some very sensitive topics so we’ve put together a general guide of what you can expect. There may be some differences between clinics and organisations but hopefully the below will help to ease any worries you may have.
Days leading up to your appointment
Have a think about what you may want to talk about with your new psychologist and make notes if you think it will be helpful. Your psychologist will guide you through the session and ask exploratory questions but a few notes may help you remember anything important, especially if you think you’ll be a bit nervous.
On the day
We’d recommend arriving about 15 minutes before your first appointment. The same as when you visit a new doctor surgery, there’s usually some standard paperwork to complete before your session, including an informed consent form. You may also be asked to complete some questionnaires about what’s going on. Arriving a little early may give you time to get your bearings and feel more settled before your session starts. Don’t worry – your psychologist will probably come and find you when it’s time to begin.
Once you’re settled (water or cushion, anyone?) your psychologist should properly introduce themselves, give you an idea of what to expect in the coming hour, and review the informed consent you should have read. This bit is especially important in helping you understand your obligations and the psychologist’s, especially around confidentiality.
The Main Event
The majority of the session will be spent talking about your reason for visiting and collecting a brief history. Please don’t be surprised or offended if your psychologist asks you about any self-harm behaviours or suicidal thoughts. Such enquiries help them gauge your level of distress and make sure you’re safe.
Your psychologist will likely ask how you’re feeling, how you thought the session went, and whether you’ve said everything you wanted or needed to. If you feel comfortable to book further sessions, they’ll probably help you navigate that process and outline what to expect from session 2 before waving you on your merry way.
Things to Bear in Mind
- You don’t have to answer any questions you don’t want to. Sessions are confidential but you may not be ready to talk about some things and that’s ok!
- You’re getting to know your psychologist as much as they’re getting to know you. Every psychologist has their own interpersonal style and if you’re not sure you’ll feel comfortable, it’s in your benefit to speak up. Your psychologist shouldn’t take it personally but if you’re worried about saying something you can also talk to the reception team on your way out.
- There’s no such thing as a silly question; in psychology land we don’t really believe that curiosity killed the cat and will happily answer anything you want to know the best we can.
- It’s ok to get emotional. Sensitive issues are talked about between the four walls of therapy rooms (often for the first time) so it’s quite natural to become tearful, angry, or distressed.