What to Expect in Your First Therapy Appointment
Fear of the unknown can be debilitating. The concern about how others may pass judgment prevents many people from making appointments with therapists. Overcoming the anticipation of calling, making an appointment, and sitting down with a therapist is easier when you know what to expect in your first appointment.
Making the Appointment
There are steps to take before setting up an appointment. You should check your insurance coverage to see what it covers. Reviewing your coverage is easy to do through your insurance provider’s website. Click on your coverage details and then search for therapists.
Take some time to look at some therapists and their websites before you make an appointment request. You can either call or send a request through their website for an appointment. If you don’t hear back from them, move on to another therapist.
When you speak with someone while scheduling an appointment, ask what paperwork or information you will need for the meeting. Many therapists or treatment centers request you bring:
- proof of insurance
- health records
- a complete list of medications including any psychiatric medicines you are taking or took in the past, medical concerns, if you have any
- family history of mental disorders, if any exist
If you’re worried about how others may view you for going to a therapist, remember, you don’t need to tell anyone.
Scheduling an appointment is personal.
The feelings of anticipation or uncertainty in the days leading up to the appointment may be eased by reading the information on a therapist’s or center’s website that explains what can expect in your first appointment. Often the information found on the website creates a better understanding of the structure of the appointment.
Put aside some time to consider what you want from therapy. Write down your thoughts, feelings, and any questions you may have for your appointment. Having those written down may help you remember why you made the appointment in the first place.
The Day of the Appointment
Mentally preparing for the appointment is one way to gain confidence before you go to the consultation. Do you have that list of thoughts, feelings, and questions you made to remember why you made the appointment? Use that list to help ease you into a conversation.
Remember, this is a consultation: a chance to see if you feel comfortable. There is no need to be anything but yourself. Wear what makes you feel secure or confident. Turn on music that makes you feel good and play it on the way to the appointment. Be comfortable.
The therapist will ask open-ended questions like
- How are you doing?
- What brings you in today?
There are no wrong answers to these questions. Don’t worry about how you answer a question or what the therapist may think. The appointment is your time, and you can take as much time as you need to get comfortable.
An important piece of advice is: don’t label yourself. You aren’t bipolar, depressed, or any other illness.
You have a bipolar disorder or depression. You are not a thing to be labeled; you are a human being who has emotions, genetic traits, and needs. A therapist once shared this information with a woman, and the woman realized she wasn’t an illness; she had an illness.
Be Prepared for Emotions
When you start a session, you choose to talk about what you want to discuss. Be prepared for any hidden feelings to surface. These emotions can arise unexpectedly and come from other incidents you didn’t plan on discussing.
Opening up about why you decided to start therapy may lead you down a path exposing past trauma such as sexual or physical abuse. Let yourself feel. It’s okay to cry, be angry, or not speak at all. Your therapist understands you may experience various emotions and is okay with you expressing how you feel.
The End of the Appointment
Toward the end of the session, your therapist will ask you what you want to achieve in therapy. Be honest about what you think you need to figure out, or if you don’t know exactly what you think you need, let your therapist know. If you know what you want to talk about, spend time going over and discussing a treatment plan with your therapist.
The treatment plan could include discussion about medication, referrals to a psychiatrist, recommendations for labs to determine dosage for a prescription, and the level of care you need. Make sure the treatment plan contains long-term and short-term goals. Don’t overwhelm yourself with unattainable goals. Short-term goals can include a goal for the next week, day, or month. There’s no need to place pressure on yourself.
After the Appointment
Once the appointment is over, catch a breath. You made it through. Before analyzing how the meeting went, take some time for yourself. Later, allow a few moments to consider how you feel. First consultations may be awkward. If you didn’t feel comfortable, you may look for another therapist or try one or two more appointments with the therapist you saw. You are not obligated to stay with the same therapist.
Feeling scared or anxious about seeing a therapist is normal. When you make the appointment, you are taking the first step in overcoming those fears and seeking the treatment you need. Spending time reading a therapist’s or center’s website, writing down your thoughts and questions, and learning about different types of therapy can prepare you for your first meeting.
Congratulations on making your first appointment to see a therapist! This is an important first step, and you should be proud of yourself. Now, take the time to get ready for the appointment. Talk with friends or family members who were in or are currently going to therapy. Write down your questions, expectations, and goals. Don’t be afraid to talk about whatever pops into your head. Be open to unknown feelings or unexpected emotional reactions. Also, it’s okay if you don’t connect with the first therapist you meet. Finding the right therapist may take time, but it is worth the time and effort. Call treatment centers and ask questions about their therapists, how they determine who you should see, and what you need to bring to the first appointment. Achieve Medical Center can help you find the right fit. We take the time to get to know you and help you find a therapist you will be comfortable talking to and working with. To schedule an appointment, contact Achieve Medical Center today at (858) 221-0344.