So you’ve taken a brave step toward healing and you’ve made your first appointment with a mental health counselor. It’s normal for some nerves to set in as you try to anticipate what to expect in your first few appointments.
Going to counseling for the first time can be a little bit intimidating and it’s helpful to have a rough idea of what it might look like. Though not all counselors handle the initial appointment the same way, there are some general things you can expect as you begin therapy:
- Paperwork – You can expect to fill out a fair amount of paperwork at or before your first appointment. You may be asked general information about how best to contact you and your availability for appointments. You will probably be asked about your physical and mental health history and any symptoms you are currently experiencing. If you are using insurance to help pay for counseling, be sure and bring your insurance card so you can fill out any insurance information. You will likely sign a consent for treatment form and an acknowledgement of your state’s laws for treating mental health clients.
- “What brings you in today?” – This is probably the most common question asked during a first visit. Your Counselor wants to help you in the best way they can so they will want to know right off the bat what led you to seek counseling.
- You will likely be asked about your personal history and current situation.
- You may talk about the counselors therapy methods and what will be expected from you in the process.
It is completely normal to feel nervous about going to a counselor but don’t allow that nervousness to hold you back. One of the most important things to remember is that you can expect to get out of therapy what you put into it. If you open up with your counselor and are completely honest, you will see much better results than if you try and cover up what is really going on.
It is important that you feel like you can develop a long-term relationship with your counselor so you can get the maximum benefits from counseling. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right fit so here are some questions to ask yourself after your first few appointments:
- Do I feel safe and secure? There will certainly be times your counselor will ask challenging questions that take you outside of your comfort zone, but you should always feel that anything you share will be met without judgement and kept confidential.
- Is the therapist asking questions and really listening to the answers? Especially in the first few visits, the counselor should be asking lots of questions to get to know you.
- Have you discussed the outcome you are hoping to gain from therapy or have you set goals with your counselor?
- Are you satisfied with the therapists qualifications, training and resources?
- Do you feel as if you are moving in a positive direction? After just a few sessions, all of your issues aren’t going to magically disappear, but you should feel that what your counselor says makes sense and you should feel some sense of progress.
- Therapists are used to being the one who leads sessions – especially the first few. So don’t feel like you need to come in knowing what to say or do. Your therapist will most likely do their best to make you feel comfortable and walk you through what the session will look like. It’s a brave and beautiful thing to set out on a journey toward healing and wholeness, so walk confidently in the knowledge that taking steps to find the right therapist is the right work to be doing.