What Happens on Your First Visit to a Psychologist?

When you first decide to see a psychologist, you may have many questions. In this article, we let you know about what's likely to happen on your first visit.
What Happens on Your First Visit to a Psychologist?

Last update: 21 March, 2022

More and more people are making the decision to visit a psychologist. There can be many different reasons for this. For example, difficulties in their relationships, feelings of anxiety or hopelessness, their child’s tantrums, or a grief that they’ve been unable to overcome. Indeed, there are many reasons, but one common element: they’re suffering and they feel that, to date, their actions to avoid it haven’t worked.

As a rule, people make the decision themselves to see a psychologist in order to deal with certain problems in their life they’re unable to solve alone. However, there are certain instances where the request comes from an external source. For instance, in the case of some minors, people with addictions, or due to certain legal processes. Needless to say, society has started to accept the figure of the psychologist. This isn’t only for the treatment of certain disorders but also in the search for personal growth.

If you’ve just made your first appointment to visit a psychologist, it’s natural to feel apprehensive. However, you might be surprised to know that you’ve passed the most difficult stage by actually making the appointment. Because you’ve probably been intending to do it for ages, yet it’s taken a good few crises to finally get there. When you finally reach the waiting room, you’ll probably find other new patients there with exactly the same feelings of apprehension as you.

psychologist with patient

Your first visit to the psychologist

After greeting each other, you’ll both sit down and start working together for the first time. The psychologist will probably encourage you to talk about whatever you want, although they may help guide you if you need a hand. When children attend an appointment, the psychologist usually starts with intermediate games or objects. In your case, the aim of your first appointment is for the psychologist to learn what’s brought you there and what you need help with.

You might start linking your relevant issues from the beginning. In this way, the necessary data is completed on a successive basis. Alternatively, a more structured question-answer interview may be conducted. The structuring of the interview will depend on what the psychologist thinks you’ll feel more comfortable with on this first visit.

No matter how hard this first visit may be, it’s when the bond between you and the psychologist starts to be forged. Therefore, trust is an essential requirement. In fact, this therapeutic link is considered one of the most important predictors that determine the proper functioning and success of any psychotherapy.

Relevant information

There are certain elements that are essential in your first visit to a psychologist. Firstly, your personal data such as name, contacts, employment status, date of birth, or similar is collated. Later, the psychologist usually collects data to make a genogram. This is a sketch concerning your family relationships. They’ll usually draw up two, one relating to your adulthood, and one to your childhood.

It’s particularly important for the psychologist to obtain information from you about your social, work, and emotional relationships. Also, the daily roles you have to play in different areas of your life. They’ll also collect relevant medical and psychiatric information. For example, your history, medication, and any relevant physical or psychiatric illnesses.

Finally, they’ll collect information about important events in your life. Those that, in some way, have significantly affected your life process. For example, the death of someone close to you or a house move. Finally, they’ll probably ask if there’s anything else you’d like to add that could be relevant.

Other forms of evaluation

The previous sections may take up most of your visit to the psychologist. However, they may use other exploration methods to help clarify the diagnostic hypothesis, as well as to establish the therapeutic objectives. These two aspects will indicate where the path of psychotherapy is going and when it will end once the objectives have been achieved.

The evaluation methods will depend on the criteria, orientation, or way of working of the individual psychologist. Some of the most common are questionnaires. These usually consist of questions about certain aspects you’ve already discussed in the interview. They usually contain a battery of questions regarding psychological and social aspects. You’ll answer them via the response alternative that best suits your own personal situation.

On the other hand, they may use more active techniques, such as the lifeline or sculpting. These evaluation techniques allow you to visualize your life journey with a privileged view of the present and the future, thus creating connections between these moments in time. These forms of work are often used in humanistically oriented therapies. They’re useful, as they help you overcome any initial defensiveness.

It’s particularly important that, at the end of the interview, you can clearly answer the questions: What’s happening to you, when did it start, and why?

Therapeutic contract

The therapeutic contract gives structure to psychotherapy. As we mentioned earlier, a key factor in the therapeutic process is the bond and relationship of trust that’s established between the psychologist and the patient. This relationship is, at the same time, supported by the therapeutic contract. It’s configured by the rules to be followed during the process.

The contract usually includes details such as the frequency and duration of the visits, the fees, what happens if you miss a visit without notifying them, the format of the counseling (face-to-face or online), etc.

In addition, the psychologist must report on two fundamental aspects. Firstly, the confidentiality of the sessions. This means you agree not to speak outside about anything that happens during the therapeutic process. Secondly, the main objectives of the therapy and some finer details on the psychologist’s way of working.

The therapeutic contract establishes the limits that allow psychotherapy to work. This contract can be made either in writing or spoken. Although it seems like common sense, it’s necessary that it be explained in detail in case there are occasions where the rules are put to the test. It’s at these times that the therapeutic contract of your first visit will help you to return to the established margins. Therefore, the proper functioning of the therapy will be safeguarded.

psychologist with patient

Start along the road

Once this first contact session and some pertinent formalities have been carried out, you’ll start along the path toward your established objectives. In other words, when you leave the appointment, you’ll already know where you’re going and who’s by your side. In fact, now, all you have to do is start walking.

However, you should bear in mind that it won’t always be a straight or easy path. Indeed, there’ll be times when you won’t even walk forward. Because you’ll often need to take a step back or stop and catch your breath. You’ll also find obstacles along the way, in the form of wounds that perhaps you didn’t even know you had. You’ll also see both your light and dark sides.

When you leave your appointments, you’ll sometimes feel hopeful and, at others, hurt or tired. Nevertheless, one thing of which you can be assured is that, if you continue beyond your first visit to the psychologist, you’ll be accompanied and cared for along the way.

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