Your First Mental Health Appointment: What to Expect

If you’ve decided to take the first step toward getting help with your mental health from a counselor, therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, congratulations! You are on your way to becoming a healthier version of yourself, and that is worth celebrating.

Even if you’ve had prior experiences with therapy, a refresher on what to expect may help calm any jitters. First and foremost, remember that you are in control of this process and if you feel that the fit is not the right one, it is okay to move on. You want to find a therapist or provider who is a good match for you. Only you can decide if the relationship feels comfortable and your concerns are being met.

What to expect at your initial visit
The first appointment with your therapist or provider will probably be geared toward establishing a connection, getting to know each other, and defining goals. If you’re using your insurance benefit, you may be asked for demographic and insurance information. The therapist or provider should also provide a HIPAA (privacy) statement and review the confidential nature of your sessions.

Questions your therapist or provider may ask
The therapist or provider will likely ask questions regarding the reason for your visit. Be as honest as possible, keeping in mind that the conversation is confidential, and that they are interested in helping you feel better. Questions may include:

• What brings you in to see me today?
• What are your current life circumstances?
• Have you been in therapy before? When and what was your experience like?
• How’s your health? What medications are you currently taking?
• How much alcohol do you drink? Do you use any recreational drugs?
• Do you have any family history of mental health challenges or substance use?
• What symptoms are you currently experiencing? How have you tried to manage them so far?
• What are your goals for therapy or counseling?
• How can I be most helpful to you at this time?

Questions you’ll want to ask
Your therapist or provider should be willing to answer your questions, so don’t feel funny about asking anything that is on your mind. These may include:

• What is your training?
• How long have you been in practice?
• What are your areas of expertise?
• Do you have experience working with individuals who have struggled with the same issues I am currently confronting?
• How do I reach you outside of my scheduled time? Do you have backup coverage if I need an immediate consultation?
• What is your cancellation policy?

Remember, this is your time. Your therapist or provider is a consultant who is there to help you understand current challenges and make changes in how you cope. Taking the first step is often the hardest part — you should feel proud and empowered to be a champion of your health and wellbeing.

May is #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth. Join our conversation on LinkedIn and Facebook and access more mental health resources here.