Your First Session
What to expect when you come to psychotherapy.
Its normal to be nervous.
After all, talking to someone who is a virtual stranger about your most intimate secrets is a big step. I don’t expect you to tell me everything straight away - just like on a first date, we will be getting to know one another.
We will sit together in a quiet, secluded room where you can be confident no-one else can hear what you are saying. You won’t be lying on a couch (although I do have a couch).
I will ask you about what has brought you here, what is going on and how you are feeling.
I may ask about your (and your family’s) medical and mental health history, whether you have seen a counsellor or therapist before and what you got out of your sessions, if anything. I will also need to know if you are taking any medications for psychological reasons. If you are seeing me under a Mental Health Care Plan, I will need to have a look at the referral, so please bring it with you when you come along.
As we talk I will get a sense of who you are and what is concerning you. But sometimes the verbal content of a session isn’t the most important information. Your body language, posture, tone of voice and the feelings that you have as you are talking are also very important. That is part of how I work and I try to maintain awareness of these things as well as paying attention to what you are saying.
My overall aim is to help you by encouraging you to develop self-awareness. As I tap into my sense of your body-based states and sensations, I can join with you exploring an empathic and non-judgemental deeper understanding.
Please bring your medicare card and a copy of your Mental Health Care plan from your GP.
Please also bring a signed copy of your Informed Consent form.
Give it time
The first few sessions are uncomfortable as the psychologist needs to get background information and it can feel like an interview.
But once that’s done you should feel more comfortable as it shifts to conversation.
Therapy isn't always going to be a comfortable journey. You will question and challenge your way of thinking and feeling. That can be confronting. But, a good therapist will support you through that process.
You can be too impatient with therapy. Therapy takes time, and results are hard to see at the beginning. It's like building a house, brick-by-brick.
It can get tough
It’s a helpful, but difficult journey.
It should be a challenge, otherwise complacency sets in.
Real therapy is painful, churning, angering at times, and hard work. But it works.
Psychologists go through six years of study including placements, research and testing before they’re registered. They must have two year’s supervision to become a clinical psychologist. Are there some bad ones? Yes. But trust the process. It’s rigorous.
Both client and psychologist should own the strategy
Client and psychologist should refine the strategy together. You don't want to be sitting there waiting for someone to tell you what to do. That's their plan, not your own!
Research ... Research ... Research
Ask your GP, health professionals, friends, or others living with your symptoms for recommendations. Alternatively, use online services such as the Australian Psychological Society's Find a Psychologist.
Once you've built a shortlist search for reviews of these professionals on Google. You'll see reviews from other clients and a short bio about the kind of therapy offered and the professional's experience. Try to find a therapist who has experience with your symptoms.
It's a lot of hard work and just like any job or education you must be prepared to put in the effort to achieve a positive outcome.
Trust your gut
Stick with it through the first few sessions, as they can be difficult. But never be afraid to change if your gut says they're not right for you.
Laughter is the best medicine
Humour helps. I do love a therapist or psych with a good sense of humour!
What’s your experience of finding a psychologist, therapist, counsellor or psychiatrist? You can add your advice in the Facebook post.
For support and information contact the SANE Help Centre on 1800 18 7263.
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