Attending counselling can be a little overwhelming, and a lot of people are quite anxious about what will happen. Below are a number of questions that clients have prior to their first session, and some tips to help you be prepared.
What do I need to bring?
Bring your referral letter, Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP) (if you have one) and any other documentation. The MHCP will be developed by your GP and will allow for your Medicare rebate to be processed. If you don’t have this you won’t be able to get the rebate. You will also need to bring a payment card, your Medicare card and your private health insurance card. All these will be needed to pay for each session.
What happens when I get to the psychologist’s office?
When you arrive, wait in the waiting area for your counsellor. They will introduce themselves to you and show you into the counselling room. In some cases you will be required to complete some paperwork and pay for the session. You will be required to sign a consent form which will outline the fees and rules around confidentiality.
What will we talk about in the first session?
Each psychologist works differently but mostly the psychologist will read through your referral and then ask you to outline why you are here. The psychologist will ask you questions. The purpose of the first session is:
For the psychologist and the client to get to know each other;
For the psychologist to understand the problem(s), and;
To develop a goal or treatment plan.
You may be given some homework to complete.
The first session usually goes very quickly. A follow up session will be booked. Make sure you have a way to contact the Psychologist if you need to change your appointment. Some clients bring a list of things they want to discuss. This can be a very useful strategy for the first session.
What about ongoing sessions?
What happens in the follow up sessions depends on the nature of the problem. You and your psychologist will develop a routine of how things go: usually checking in on progress, reviewing homework, and learning new strategies. Some people will have weekly or fortnight sessions; some will go monthly. This will be determined with yourself and the psychologist.
I am worried I’m going to cry.
This happens often and psychologists are used to this and many other emotional reactions from clients. When people are experiencing emotional distress we often bottle this up inside and then when we start talking about it (such as with the counsellor) all the emotion comes rushing out. It’s OK. Your psychologist will offer you unlimited supply of tissues, a glass of water and support.
What if I don’t like my psychologist?
The relationship between the psychologist and the client is vital. Remember part of the psychologist’s role is to challenge you and make you think differently. However, if you feel you can’t relate to your psychologist you can request to see another person. Psychologists understand that this happens sometimes and they will have colleagues they can suggest for you.
What if I don’t think it’s helping?
Talk to your psychologist about this. Most psychologists will ask you if you think the intervention is making a difference. If your problem isn’t getting a bit better after a couple of sessions, talk to your psychologist. Counselling isn’t for everyone and there are often other strategies that can be recommended.
I would like my child to see a counsellor but they refuse. What can I do?
This depends on the age of the child and the nature of the problem. For adolescents the best approach is to get them to the office any way you can (bribery sometimes helps). Talk to your child about why you think counselling will be helpful and to give it a try. It is the psychologist’s job to engage with the adolescent in the first session and set up an ongoing treatment plan/agreement. For younger children, it is appropriate for the parent to stay in the session with the child until they feel comfortable. If your child ultimately refuses to attend you cannot (should not) force them. In some cases seeing the psychologist yourself (as parent) can be helpful in giving you strategies to respond more effectively with your child.
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