You have acknowledged the need for professional help in achieving your mental health and life goals. Congratulations! Taking the first step counts, and you must pat yourself on the back. Thump, thump! Life isn’t a bed of roses, and the best of us falter as we battle our inner demons while maneuvering our way through the journey. This isn’t a race to the finish. Whenever you feel the need to seek professional guidance and help, it’s completely okay and acceptable to pause and reflect.
Many might say that talking with friends or loved ones helps. Still, it’s always better to seek the advice of qualified mental health professionals. This is because they have the expertise to handle the emotions and experiences you might encounter. They can do it in a better and more sustainable manner.
First experiences can be frightening, and preparing yourself for your first online therapy experience can put you off the hook. Stop worrying because help is at hand! Sit back and relax as we discuss the steps involved in preparing yourself for your first counseling appointment and setting realistic goals.
Write Down Your Goals
First, jotting down your thoughts, goals, preconceptions, doubts, and ideas will help render clarity to an otherwise jumbled maze of thoughts. Then, invest in cute stationery, a vintage leather journal, and a good pen with a barrel full of colored ink of your choice. Remember the craze for journaling and diary writing that our language teachers passed on to us?! That simple exercise could help you unwind and gain a deeper understanding of the patterns that might escape your notice in the monotony of life.
As an adult, responsibilities keep multiplying, and the tabs in your expenses Excel Sheet are ever increasing. But that does not mean that one should stop investing time in analyzing one’s feelings and thoughts. You must evaluate the reasons behind signs of burnout, increased irritability, unhealthy relationship patterns, etc.
Sit down in a quiet corner, on your favorite beanie, with a cup of chamomile tea or your preferred brew, and let that cobweb of thoughts uncoil. Feel the cover of your diary and the scratch of the nib against the paper as you begin to pen down your list of goals. Begin by believing this is the first step towards a journey. Have faith that towards the end of it, you will realize all your mental health, professional, or relationship goals.
Be specific in writing your goals, such as “steering clear of dating people who are emotionally unavailable” or “overcoming your fear of being stuck in escalators.” And yes, don’t self- reject; be unapologetic as you pen down your goals.
Make a List of Questions for Your Provider
“Ask, and you shall receive.” The Biblical reference holds much weight here as well. It makes sense to ask as many questions as possible in your first therapy session because there is no such thing as being over-prepared. The more questions you ask, the greater clarity you will garner about the practical side of it and the timeframe in which one can expect progress.
Here is a list of probable questions that you may seek answers to from your prospective therapist to find out whether they are a good fit for you or not.
- Can you please elaborate on the license you hold as a mental health practitioner? (As a consumer, you reserve the right to know about the therapist’s credentials before you build a therapeutic alliance with them.)
- Could we please clarify the practical side of counseling? (Cost per sitting, clinic policies about cancellations, no-shows, and health insurance)
- In your opinion, what will I gain from counseling? (Your therapist should be able to dispel any misconceptions or stereotypes that you may have and be specific in measuring the end goals.)
- Have you counseled patients in the past with mental health concerns/goals like mine?
- How frequently can we meet?
- How long are the sessions?
- Will I need medication besides counseling?
- Do I need to do any homework to track my progress?
The list of questions mentioned above is indicative and not exhaustive; please feel free to make your list of questions.
Be Completely Honest
Conversing and divulging your deepest secrets or innate fears in the first meeting can be unnerving. Therapists respect confidentiality and believe in building a good rapport with the client. Please feel free to share personal insights and experiences at your own pace and once you are comfortable. This will help your therapist achieve your goals.
Many times small details that may seem unimportant to you, may help the counselor get to the core of your being. These could include being forced to take sides whenever your parents fought as a child. It may also involve a lack of appreciation when you expected it, or even constant comparison with a sibling,
One cannot overlook the need for transparency and honesty in getting the best out of your counseling appointments. Please know that it is a safe space, and discussing your childhood, parents, or relationship patterns will help uncover valuable information that may seem trivial to you.
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Make Time for Self Care Before and After Your Session
During the appointment, you will unravel a host of emotions that may leave you feeling depleted, especially if you are not that expressive or in tune with that level of vulnerability. Therefore, you must spend a period of time before and after the session collecting your thoughts, indulging yourself in croissants or flipping through that book you have been dying to read, or taking a quick nap in the sack.
The key here is to do whatever makes you feel good from within! It could range from asking your mother for an extra long hug, looking after your pets, walking your dog, sitting under a tree and reading your favorite book, or maybe digging into a cup of extra hot gooey Choco Lava cake from Dominoes!
Set your self-care routine, and do what works for you. After the experience; many believe you will sign out feeling light as a feather. But, on the contrary, you might experience a “therapy hangover,” which can culminate in feelings such as the desire to lay low, snooze, or lack of emotions. Ensure that you schedule no important work calls at least an hour before and after the counseling appointment.
Don’t Expect Too Much at Once
Much like a blind date, your first counseling appointment will be pretty much a blank slate on which both of you will build a working relationship from scratch. This may involve getting paperwork in order, such as insurance, your billing address, emergency contacts, therapy process, and confidentiality clauses. The first session will help your counselor get a deeper understanding of the concerns you are currently facing and the outcomes you wish to achieve, and this one may seem more like a one-way street.
Your therapist may ask you a barrage of questions in your first sitting to get acquainted with you and your life experiences in detail. This may involve scratching the surface to get to the depths of your persona. This will benefit the therapist in chalking out the perfect process for you, and you may not walk out feeling as you might have expected. Each session builds on the work done in the preceding one, and the first one focuses on laying a solid foundation. Walk in with an open and receptive mind to make the most of your experience.
Follow Up and Keep at It!
Follow-up counseling is as essential as completing the counseling course. Many clients walk out of the whole experience, assuming that they are fully equipped to break the cycle of old patterns they initially sought help for. However, it is crucial to understand that the process extends beyond the controlled setting of four walls or a screen.
The procedures and effective behavior practices learned in the controlled settings of your home, or the counselor’s clinic may take some time to reflect in your daily life where the situation cannot be monitored and stays susceptible to change. You might not feel adept at employing the techniques and advice you learned throughout therapy. Therefore, it is important to know that help is at hand and that you can reach out for improvised inputs and practical tools for effective implementation.
Follow-up is a conflation of effective stress management techniques, craving-inducing situations, managing emotions subtly, and enforcing goal-setting behavior in the client. This involves a hand-holding phase by the therapist so that the client can avail of emotional support as they slowly take better control of their lives!
Get Started With a Trusted Therapist on Docvita Today
If you don’t feel like stepping out for an in-person therapy session, you can resort to telemedicine options. DocVita brings empathetic care to your doorsteps “virtually” with a seamless platform dedicated to offering top-notch health-based services from premia professionals.
With us, you will always find an ear to hear you out and a hand to walk you towards the light at the end of the tunnel. When you choose to heal with us, you will truly never walk alone! Give us a chance to help you live the life you deserve and we will make sure that you don’t regret your decision.
It’s time to book your first therapy appointment with a trusted and qualified professional of your choice at DocVita. Receive instant confirmation once you zero down on your area of concern and the best-suited counselor fluent in your language. A dedicated Care Manager will help you through a seamless booking process. Cheers to the beginning of a fulfilling and holistically healthy way of life!