Congratulations. The call has been made, and the appointment has been set. You’ve been thinking about it for weeks and finally decided to do it. A whirlwind of emotion sweeps over you, hope, excitement, anxiety, restlessness.
Your mind is flooded with questions. What’s it going to be like? What if it’s weird? What if we don’t hit it off? What if they think I’m crazy? Do I need to bring anything? What if I don’t like it? Will it even help?
All these thoughts and feelings can be a normal part of the experience when you take that step and make the first appointment with a therapist.
For many, it feels scary and uncomfortable. But the team of licensed therapists at Simi Psychological Group knows that a little bit of information ahead of time can go a long way towards settling those fears.
Simi Psychological Group is the leading mental health services provider in Moorpark. Our team of professionals knows that it can be nerve-racking to see a therapist for the first time, but have no fear. Here’s what to expect in that first session with your psychologist.
Yeah, yeah, filling out the paperwork can be tedious and a little annoying, but it’s just part of the process. You know the drill. If you’re planning to use your insurance, you’ll need to bring your insurance card or information. In addition, you’ll be filling out forms that ask for basic information (name, address, phone number, date of birth) and, most likely, some kind of questionnaire that asks about your symptoms, the things you’re struggling with, and why you are seeking treatment at this time.
Additional forms you’ll be asked to read and sign when ready include some kind of “Informed Consent,” a form that explains your rights as a client, a form that explains confidentiality and the limits around that, an explanation of HIPAA, and possibly a release of information. You may be asked to complete a Covid-19 screening, as well, just to ensure you are symptom-free at the time of the appointment.
During the appointment itself, your psychologist will go over the paperwork with you. Specifically, they will likely review the following:
- Informed Consent-This form explains a bit about the therapy process, benefits and risks, and alternatives to therapy to ensure that the client fully understands and freely consents to the treatment process.
- Statement of Client Rights- In this form, you will be provided with your rights as a client regarding things like records, confidentiality, the way in which you are treated, and the process available to you if you wish to file a complaint.
- Confidentiality- Whatever you talk to your psychologist about is considered confidential, but there are some notable exceptions, which you will be made aware of verbally and in writing.
- HIPAA- By now, we’re all pretty familiar with HIPAA, which stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, but somewhere in your paperwork, you will find information about your psychologist’s compliance with HIPAA.
- ROI- Release of Information- Your psychologist may ask you to sign a release of information giving your consent to communicate with other providers or key people in your life.
The first session with your psychologist is aimed at getting to know one another. Your psychologist (while not sharing personal information) may share a little about their style, their treatment approach, and their experience. Of course, the bulk of the session will be about you. This brings us to…
Yes, there will be a fair amount of questions asked. Your psychologist will want to understand your history, your family, your education and work experience, previous experiences in treatment, and what’s brought you into therapy at this time.
Every psychologist has their own style and way they go about doing this. For some, this process takes on a more conversational tone, and for others, it is a more structured interview as they gather information.
Either way, if you are uncomfortable sharing or going into details about some aspect of your life, you are free to let them know you’d rather not talk about that at this time. Your psychologist should respect your boundaries and not push you to talk about things you’re not yet ready to talk about.
As you get acquainted, you and your psychologist will talk about the treatment process itself, and they will ask you what you hope to get out of therapy. This is an opportunity to talk about and set treatment goals. This includes a discussion about the length of treatment, what to expect as far as the length of each session, and any other relevant information related to the treatment process.
Finally, and most importantly, in your first session with your psychologist, you can expect to receive support. The process of psychotherapy can be uncomfortable and intimidating, but your psychologist will be making every effort to set you at ease. The goal is to help you feel more comfortable, establish a good rapport, and make sure you feel heard, understood, and validated.
Working with a psychologist can be tremendously beneficial in addressing mental health issues and helping people heal and move forward. It requires vulnerability on your part, which is why it is so vital that you feel comfortable with your provider. You must feel emotionally safe with your therapist. If for whatever reason, you don’t feel like it’s a good fit, it’s ok to keep looking. Some reasons it might not be a good fit for you include the provider’s treatment approach, personal style, or personality.
Mental health professionals do not take it personally if a client feels it’s not the right fit, so do speak up if that’s the case. When you find that person who is the right fit, you’ll know it. Psychotherapy is not accessible, and most wouldn’t describe it as “fun,” but working with the right psychologist should be an emotionally safe, comforting, and healing experience.
As you prepare for your first appointment, remember that it’s normal to feel a little nervous. Your psychologist understands that and will do everything they can to put you at ease. For most of us, sharing intimate details of our lives with a “stranger” is not easy, especially when we’re feeling vulnerable and in emotional pain. Clients often worry that their therapist will judge them, and be assured this is not the case.
At Simi Psychological Group, we approach your situation with compassion and empathy and remind you that you are not alone. In the words of well-known psychologist Dr. Irvin Yalom, “It’s the relationship that heals.” To learn more about our Moorpark practice or book your first appointment, call (805) 842-1994.