What to Expect From First Psychotherapy Session?

Written by Pliro
Dec 31, 2018 Last updated: Mar 29, 2019

Psychotherapy is the method that psychologists use to help people live happier and healthier lives. It is a process firmly based on the relationship between the patient and the therapist, where objectivity, non-judgment, trust and support are essential. Treatment with psychotherapy is a collaborative process. It depends on both the patient and the therapist.

There are many problems that psychotherapy can help you with. Anxiety (worrying too much), depression (long periods of sadness and helplessness) and self-destructive behavior (in all its forms) can all be treated with this method. The objective of the psychotherapist is to guide and help you to change the cognitive and behavioral patterns that cause your problems.

Things to do beforehand

How/Where to find them?

Pakistan has a very severe deficit of psychotherapists, so it may be difficult to even find psychotherapists to start your research.

Asking yourself some practical questions

Here is a list of simple questions that you should ask yourself.

  • Do you want individual or group therapy?
  • What are your main goals for therapy?
  • Can you afford therapy? (many psychologists are flexible with payment schedules)
  • How far are you willing to travel to get to your appointment?
  • Can you fit regular appointments in your normal schedule?

Things to ask to psychologists before deciding on one and scheduling an appointment

  • Are you taking new clients?
  • Do you work with adults, children, couples, groups, etc? (the specific question will depend of your situation)
  • Are you licensed by the local government?
  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • Do you have experience with people like me/with my condition?
  • Which is your preferred method for treatment?
  • Has it been successful before?
  • How much do you charge?
  • What are your preferred payment methods? (credit card, cash, etc)
  • Do you offer any kind of discount?
  • Is there a way to agree on a payment schedule suited to my current financial situation?
  • Do you accept my insurance?
  • What are your policies for missed appointments?

These questions will make the selection process easier.

Some Other Considerations

  • Unless they need to be physically present and a part of therapy, is best not to bring partners, children, friends or other people to your appointment.
  • A normal session takes from 45 to 50 minutes, so you should take that into consideration when scheduling your first appointment.
  • Some sessions can be longer or shorter than normal. This is left to the doctor’s prerogative.
  • Find out if your insurance grants you some benefit for therapy sessions.
  • The first minutes of the first appointment is often occupied by the filling of patient information forms. It may be best if you arrive early.
  • If you have seen another psychologist or have medical information that may be relevant for your therapy, take it and show that information to the doctor on the first appointment.
  • Research the type of treatment that your selected psychologist uses.
  • Be sure you know how to get to the doctor’s office.

Set Your Expectations

Each psychologist is different, but first appointments tend to be similar in almost every case, no matter which particular method of treatment they follow.

After giving basic personal information, you’ll be asked to talk about your life. In this moment you are free to say anything without judgment or interruptions; however, time is limited and if you are there with a clear goal in mind (which we recommend), then is best is to focus on what has been bothering you rather that on unrelated topics.

This process will take the majority of the time. You need to be as honest as possible.

A few minutes before the session ends, most psychologists (especially if they work with your insurance) will give a tentative diagnosis of your condition based on the information you provided. It is very important to clarify that this should NOT be taken as a definitive diagnosis and in fact, it may change over time as more sessions reveal new things and the doctor is able to gain further insight into your particular situation. This is such a common thing, not necessarily due to some consideration for the patient, but mainly because, many insurance companies ask for that early diagnosis. Some doctors don’t feel comfortable doing this but others are obligate to incorporate it.

If the psychologist considers that you need some kind of medication then he/she will refer you to a psychiatrist (only this kind of professional can prescribe you pharmaceuticals for mental health).

That should cover the main events of a regular first visit. Therapy is very complex journey, how long it may take depends on you, your doctor and the circumstances that surround both of you. Statistics indicate that come forms of psychotherapy (like Cognitive behavioral therapy) show their results for most patients after 30 to 50 sessions. We urge you not to set a limit to the number of sessions. Their length should be determined by progress.