How to have a great first session with a psychologist

You’ve found yourself a psychologist, great! You’ve even made your first appointment, even better! But what happens in the first session?

The idea of talking about your problems with someone you don’t even know yet can be scary. I’m going to provide you with some information that will hopefully make this beginning stage more comfortable.

What you should take to the first session

Most commonly, the only thing you’ll take along is a referral letter from your GP. The psychologist needs your Medicare number and the GP’s provider number to bill Medicare. If you don’t plan to claim the Medicare rebate you won’t need the letter.

If you have a copy of a mental health treatment plan from your GP, take it along. It can save you having to give the same details twice. You could also ask the doctor’s office to send it to your psychologist for you.

Your psychologist may have asked you to bring paperwork with you, like an informed consent form. Save time by reading it and filling it in before you arrive.

If you know you’re eligible for a private health insurance rebate, remember your private health fund card.

We can also pass along information that you’ve given us about your goals and requirements. This really helps because if your psychologist knows what you want, it’s easier for them to give it to you!

What you should expect

The first consultation with your psychologist is often longer than a normal session. Find out before you go, so you can allow enough time.

Some people see it as almost a “first date”. The psychologist wants to get to know what has happened, what is happening right now and what goals you would like to achieve. In return, they’ll explain how they work, what they expect of you, what the boundaries are and any limits to confidentiality. They may get you to sign an informed consent form that will outline all of this information.

This first session is also a great time to determine whether or not you think you could have a good relationship with your psychologist. The therapeutic relationship is one of the most important factors in determining both your engagement in therapy and long-term positive progress. Pay attention to how you two work together and any “gut feelings” you may have about the psychologist.

Visit our blog on “How to know if your therapy is effective” to find out more about the importance of the therapeutic relationship.

What should I say?

Often, the psychologist will guide the conversation by the questions they ask. It may feel a little odd for the conversation to be focused on you. But remember, the psychologist is helping you to get through your concerns.

Having more information will help the psychologist to make a better treatment plan for you. If you can, go a bit outside your comfort zone in opening up and sharing what’s on your mind.  You should also print out the details you provided to us to better guide this consultation and the following sessions.

Finally, bring up any questions or concerns you may have. It is important that you feel informed and comfortable when seeing a psychologist.

If it doesn’t feel right

The first session is the foundation for your treatment. If you feel like you don’t connect well with the psychologist, you don’t have to continue seeing them.

Let us know if you have any questions about your first session, we’re glad to help. We can also help you find another psychologist if it comes to that. Don’t let one less than positive experience stop you from reaching your goals.

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Myfanwy Purslow - November 21, 2018 Reply

Thanks for the advice! Loved reading this article.

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