Before you see a therapist, it may help to know what to expect and how to prepare for your session. That way, you will more likely get the help you want and feel more at ease. Here are notes and suggestions to help you prepare.
First, think about what is bothering you. Think about how long it has been bothering you. Has it changed? Gotten worse? If you have already tried some things, has anything seemed to help?
We suggest making yourself a few notes to take with you:
• Write down a few sentences about how you feel and what is troubling you. Don't worry if your concerns seem embarrassing to you, your professional has heard them before and will not be surprised - they want to help.
• If there are significant events or dates when something related happened, write a brief history to help you remember details.
• If you have any documents - notes, test results or other documents that seem relevant, bring them along. If you are seeking help for your child, drawings or writings that illustrate your concern would be good to bring, too.
• Bring along a list of the all medications you are taking including medication for physical conditions, including name, dose and frequency.
• Then think about what questions you might have — about your situation, about the professional and how they work, about cost, etc. and write them down, too. That way you will remember to ask them.
Next, think about what outcome you want — maybe it is clarifying why you feel a certain way, maybe it is figuring out how to stop, start or change something or maybe it is dealing with a current or pending crisis. Whatever it is, do you have a goal in mind? Write it down and talk about it.
You can also bring along a family member or friend if that makes you more comfortable or if you want someone to help you remember things. If you are bringing in a child or other person and want to have a chance to talk separately with the mental health professional, request that when you make an appointment or give them a note when you arrive and ask to have this time. Tell them if you think it should be before or after the main meeting.
Remember, your time will be limited. Making some written notes will help you use the time well.
The First Appointment
The clinician's office should be an easy, comfortable place to talk. If something about it bothers you, tell them.
They may tell you a bit about themselves and will probably ask you some general questions about interests, family, work or school to help you feel comfortable. Then they will ask how they can help or why you have come. Just tell them in your own words or pull out that list of notes! Next they will ask you some questions to help them understand your situation.
At the end of your conversation (usually 30-50 minutes) you should decide if you are comfortable with this person and if so, do they think they can help or do they think a referral to a different specialist would be best for you? Ask how they think you should proceed. You can write down the next step to help you remember after you leave.