Demystifying therapy - The first appointment
In my last article, I highlighted the importance of the first phone call as the moment where the relationship with your therapist begins. The first appointment often follows suit; this is when you will finally meet your therapist.
The first appointment, or how your psychologist gets to know you
During the first appointment, the psychologist will want to know more about the reasons that brought you to his office. That’s what we call the chief complaint. You will be asked to talk about your concerns, your current state or your situation’s history.
Chances are, he will also want to get to know you as a person. He may ask questions about yourself, your past and your methods for dealing with various situations in life. He may also have you perform tests or answer various surveys. He will probably ask you about your expectations to make sure he is the right person to help you and to start identifying the therapy’s objectives.
He will also take the time to welcome you, to listen to you and to pay attention to your attitude and your non-verbal communication. This will allow him to learn more about how you feel or how you tend to act, which will in turn help him focus his intervention to correspond to your needs.
This is called the evaluation process. Its length may vary depending on the professional you are meeting and your particular situation.
It’s good to let your therapist get to know you, but it’s also a good thing to get to know him
During the evaluation and the rest of the process, you will get to know your psychologist a little better. This may seem a bit unexpected, considering that, in order to do his job well, he will have to act with professionalism and a bit of distance. This means that he will not open up as much as you will. You will know very little about his life, his interests or his past, but he will not remain a stranger to you. It’s less about who he is and more about how he is.
His actions with you and the way you feel in his presence will help you get to know him. Be attentive. Pay attention to the consent form (which contains information on his approach), his experience and his therapy process. Don’t hesitate to ask questions before signing the form or at any other moment during the process.
Finally, pay attention to his benevolence and acceptance, to the way he listens to you, to his facial expressions and his non-verbal communication, and to the way he interacts with you. With time, you will be able to better predict his reactions and even anticipate what he would tell you during certain situations. That’s how you will be able to use your interactions with him in everyday life, and how you will develop a trusting relationship with your therapist, which is the first step for any change to happen.
Psychologist, D. Ps.