The makings of a positive friendship


I booked a session with a psychologist….Now What?

Booking the first session with a psychologist can be very challenging. It is normal to experience some level of anxiety and low motivation to book that first session, with some people taking weeks, months and even years to book the appointment.

So before we even talk about what this means and what to expect, let me congratulate you on the courage you have taken in your steps towards bettering your mental health. Research has shown us that even by booking this first session, before you even attend, around 10-18% of people will notice an increase in their mood and quality of life.

It’s so hard to know what to expect out of the first session with a psychologist. Will they ask questions? Will they diagnose me? Do I lie down on the lounge? Do we learn skills? Do I talk? Will I get medication? Will it even help?

Lets break it down.

Firstly your psychologist will give you a warm greeting in the waiting room and introduce themselves. This is an excellent chance for you to finally put a face to the name! From here we welcome you into our office. We take the time to explain the purpose of the session being around getting to know each other and build some understanding around why you are here. Before we take the time to do this, we review confidentiality and the charter you will have signed before entering the space. (As someone who often signs the terms and conditions without reading all of the finer details,) your psychologist will verbally go back through this with you, so you can give informed consent to continue within the session. This is your space and we do these things to ensure your safety.

After you have consented to the session, the rest of the session (which totals 50 minutes) is focused on building a relationship where the psychologist will ask you a number of questions about why you are here. This is so that we can understand you more and what you may need in seeking therapy. What we determine is your current presentation, previous help-seeking behavior, previous care, your current life situation and any other relevant factors to you attending this session, such as your safety. This helps us develop a treatment plan and formulation for seeing us ongoingly.
At some point in the first session you will often be asked to complete some brief surveys to gage how intense some of your symptoms are, your overall outcomes in life and to gain some direct feedback on how you have found the session with the psychologist. This is an excellent opportunity for you to express how we can make the next session more beneficial for you.

At the end of the session the psychologist will review what the next few sessions will look like and how we can support your current presenting concern. Often we find that just one session is not enough time to explore your history, or to create a comprehensive formulation of your treatment. This can take anywhere from one-three sessions.

Every person that enters the space has very different needs and this means the first session may look different for everyone. Some people walk in and find it really difficult to open up. The psychologist will support you by asking more directed questions and taking the time to get to know you as a person first. Others walk into the session and find themselves “dumping” everything and rapidly going through all of the challenges in their life. The psychologist will take the time to listen, and at times slow you down so you don’t leave the session feeling drained and more distressed then when you enter.

As the sessions progress, remember that this space is for your benefit. If you are confused, lost or need more support please don’t hesitate to ask us questions. Name the discomfort. Let us support you and find what we can do to make therapy the best experience for you. Keep in mind, not every person connects with the first psychologist they meet. If you find after a few sessions you still don’t feel safe, comfortable or like you have connected to your psychologist let us know! We will support you in rebooking with another clinician at Shoalhaven Psychology Services, or provide you with a referral somewhere else. We want the best for you and supporting you in becoming the best version of yourself.

How about those extra questions

Will they ask questions?

In short- Yes we will! We will ask questions to guide the session and support in finding out all the information we need to give you the best treatment.

Will they diagnose me?

In the first session? No, it can take upwards of one-three sessions to determine the information we need to understand who you are as a person. For diagnosis we often need a combination of this information as well as clinically relevant assessments to explore if you meet the diagnostic criteria. We also may refer to a psychiatrist or paediatrician for diagnostic support if required.

Do I lie down on the lounge?

It’s rare we see someone do this, as often most people find it comfortable to be seated with their feet on the ground. However, if you are more comfortable laying down we won’t discourage this at all.

Do we learn skills?

In future sessions, absolutely! On the first session we don’t know much about each other, so providing the correct skills is often very tough. Come into the first session expecting to explore yourself more than expecting to learn skills to cope.

Do I talk?

Absolutely. We use this session to get to know you and why you may be in the session. If you find talking tough we will support you in this as well! You can say as much or as little as you are ready to.

Will I get medication?

Within Australia Psychologists are not legally allowed to prescribe medication to their clients, this is the role of psychiatrists and GP’s.

Will it even help? .

Research shows that there is a 10-18% improvement in mental health and quality of life prior to session 1, but after just 2 sessions this number increases to 30%!

Claire Meikle
Provisional Psychologist



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