Going to see a psychologist for the first time can be quite daunting. It’s very different to seeing a GP or a specialist for a physical ailment. Hollywood would have us believe that we lay back on a couch and spill our guts. The Dr then tells us what is wrong and it’s all fine and dandy. It’s pretty far from the truth really. Just to be clear, a psychologist deals with talk therapy, however that may be manifested. They are not able to prescribe medications but are usually well versed in psychiatric medications.
I’ve been seeing a mental health professional (some of them not so much of the professional) on and off for the last 11 years. I’ve picked up a few tips along the way, but I still get overwhelmed at seeing someone for the first time. I thought that I probably wasn’t the only one so I put together a little list of 5 ways to make the most out of an appointment.
1. Make a list of things you want to let the psychologist know.
Sometimes there is so much going on that it’s easy to forget things that you want to cover in therapy. There is no shame in writing them down. This is not just useful for the first session, but can also be used for subsequent sessions.
2. Don’t be afraid to shop around.
If you feel that you don’t click with your psychologist, let them know. You might not find the perfect fit the first time around and that is ok. It’s so important though that you find someone who you can trust and feel comfortable with. The whole experience will be a waste of time if you feel that you can’t open up to them.
3. Go in with an open mind.
There may be things that your psychologist suggests to you that you had never thought about. There is probably a good chance that it will happen often. Have an open mind and try the things they suggest, if it doesn’t work then you can move onto a new coping mechanism.
4. Be gentle with yourself.
Therapy is hard. Working on things that have been entrenched in your life for a long time is hard. Be gentle with yourself, you aren’t going to feel better immediately but the pain in the short term is worth the long term gain. You are not weak for seeking help. If you have a physical affliction you see a doctor, seeking help for psychological issues is no different.
Seeing a psychologist for the last 12 months has been the absolute best step I have made. I was frustrated with the lack of support I was getting through the public system. It wasn’t until I began to see a psychologist that I realised how ineffective the crisis management therapy I had been receiving was. I am currently doing more structured therapy that will help me to cope in the long term, meaning that hopefully my episodes are shorter and further apart.
Have you ever been to see a psychologist? What tips do you have for people attending their first session?