Once you decide to seek help, here are a few things to expect as you make your first contact.
A. What to expect from your first phone call
• Brief information about why type of services the individual provides: specialized training
• Brief information about why you are seeking treatment. What are your symptoms, how long have you been experiencing them
• Expectations of the client (you) and the provider during counseling: attending/missing sessions, late arrivals
• The provider’s theoretical approach to the nature of people, problems and change. This will be indicative of how counseling sessions will go. The provider may be more directive, meaning conversations will largely follow the direction of the provider. Some may be more client centered meaning, you the client will direct sessions and where the conversation goes.
B. What to ask when you make your first appointment
This is not an all-inclusive list, or a restriction of questions you can ask, but these are some questions you should have answers to.
• What types of therapy do you specialize in?
• What population do you specialize in?
• Billing: how much do you charge?
• Will my insurance cover this?
• Do you use a sliding scale?
C. What to expect from your first session
• Interview: getting information regarding your symptoms, childhood history, mental health history, substance use, referral, family history, family mental health, expectations for your counseling experience. This is likely to feel like a lot of question and answer. The point of the interview is to help your mental health provider get an idea of who you are and your past experiences.
• Your therapist should provide you with a copy of their Personal Disclosure Statement (PDS), this informs you of how they approach therapy with clients. You should also get information regarding your rights as a client.
• Setting your next counseling session: Talk with your provider about how the session went and when they want to see you next. How soon do you want to have another session? Don’t forget you have a say in when your next session is!
D. How to get the most out of therapy
• Ask questions. Have questions about what’s going on in session, or out of session? Ask! Your therapist is there to help you.
• Be open minded. It is common and normal to feel like things are getting worse before they begin to get better. As past experiences begin to come up this can cause distress. Re-opening these memories and emotions with a therapist can provide closure and new learned coping skills. This process may at times take you out of your comfort zone. Hang in there! This is part of the process.
• Remember, you are the expert on you!!
• Know your rights. As a client of a licensed therapist you have rights to things such as, but not limited to: viewing your client file, reporting a therapist who is acting unethically or unlawfully, or requesting a new therapist.
• Some health insurances pay for a set number of counseling sessions
• Some providers will agree to a sliding scale fee
• Talk with your mental health provider about payment options they accept