I have a lot of respect for anyone who is brave enough to attend an appointment to seek help when they are struggling emotionally. We all get many messages, subtle and not so subtle, that we should have it all together, we are weak if we emotionally distressed or struggling to cope with stress. It is okay and even encouraged to seek help from a medical doctor if we are physically unwell or in pain but when we are in emotional pain we get the message that there is something wrong with us as a person, defective, weak, and something to be ashamed of. These messages are not only untrue (who has it together all the time?) they are unhelpful and serve to amplify the emotional pain, not only does the person have to deal with the depression or anxiety they are experiencing, for example, but now they also have to deal with shame of their illness.
I only see strong people – it takes a lot of courage to seek psychological support.
Let me tell you, I only see strong people – it takes a lot of courage to seek psychological support. I see people who are not sleeping, not eating, unable to get out of bed and withdrawing from any social contact, basically wanting to hide from the world, walk through my door – that’s guts!
Many are also very anxious at the beginning of the consultation, they have pre-conceived ideas of what will happen or their imagination has run riot on them. They don’t know what to expect and are fearful of being negatively judged.
To allay some fears and harness some imaginations I thought it might be helpful to let you know what does happen. Confidentiality and particularly the limits of confidentiality are usually discussed up front so you know how the information you provide will be dealt with and what cannot be kept confidential. This allows you to understand your therapist’s responsibility and to choose what you want to discuss or not. Your therapist may let you know how they work and their expectations of you. They will also be interested to know your expectations and what you want to achieve from therapy.
Overall, the first session is about getting to know you, some of your history, your situation and assessing your symptoms.
Overall, the first session is about getting to know you, some of your history, your situation and assessing your symptoms. It is also about building a working relationship – respecting that you are your own expert, that you know yourself better than anyone else; and acknowledging that the therapist brings in expert knowledge and has experience assisting many people who have struggled with issues similar to yours. Together you will develop a treatment plan. More than likely you will be given tasks to do between sessions to try and practice before reviewing their efficacy at the next appointment.