Gulp, you’ve done it, you’ve finally made that booking to see a psychologist (like you’ve been meaning to do for a while now). Your mind starts racing as you mentally walk yourself through your first session and before you know it you’ve worked yourself into a state imagining how horrible it could be. Before biting your nails to stubs, check out my insider info below on what to expect from your first visit.
1. You May Have to Wait longer for your appointment than you expected to because the psychologist may be running over time. Rest assured that if they’re running overtime it’s likely that you’ll feel unrushed in your appointment with them. The last thing you want is to feel that they are constantly watching the clock and pushing you out the door when your time is up.
2. They May Ask Why You’re There and How They Can Help. A quick and to the point answer like “I’m here to get help to manage my anxiety” or “I’ve been really struggling with feeling low lately” helps the psychologist to understand from the beginning what journey you’ll be going on together.
3. They May Ask About The Past so they can better understand how the issue developed over time. This is where I see most people get flustered and jump around like a ball in a pin ball machine. You can take in a brief timeline on a piece of paper to make this question a whole lot easier to answer.
4. They May Ask You Questions You Feel Are Irrelevant or weird like what you enjoy doing in your spare time. The best psychologists will try and get to know who you are rather than just what’s wrong with you. Bottom line is you’re not a text book, you’re unique and what might work for one person, might not work for you. The more your psych knows about you, the better position they are in to help you.
5. They May Interrupt or Redirect You. The first session is notoriously an information gathering session so you might find that you’re not able to go into anything in great depth. Be prepared to be (politely) interrupted, redirected to new questions or brought back to something you were talking about earlier in the session. Don’t worry you WILL have a chance to really let things out, but it’s unlikely to happen in the very first visit.
6. They May Ask You About Your Risk. It’s common to be asked “have you ever done anything to hurt yourself?” and “have you ever felt suicidal” in a first session. I find that many clients HATE these questions because they can trigger off a lot of fear. You may worry that if you say you’ve been feeling suicidal you’ll be quickly bagged up and shut away in a psych ward somewhere. Rest assured psychs can’t lock you up, we simply don’t have the power to. We’re asking so that together we can discuss ways to keep you safe.
7. You Might Feel Worse, Not Better After Your First Visit. Chances are you’ve had some emotions building up and bubbling under the surface for some time now and your first session is likely to bring some of them out. You can feel exhausted and emotional after your first visit so it’s worth making your session at a time when you can have a rest and some breathing space afterwards. As you learn new strategies and make some progress with your psychologist, your mood is likely to lift and sessions will become less daunting.