What to Expect When Going to a Psychologist
What Happens at the Shrink's
Going to a psychologist for the first time can often be a frightening and nerve wracking experience. The first thing to understand is that many people seek the help of psychologists every day. Most of these people are not mentally ill, but simply need some one to help them get through a difficult or stressful time in their life. I myself have seen a psychologist during certain rough periods of my life and my experience was always a very good one.
Psychologists are usually very nice, caring, and relaxed people. Remember that the only reason they are there is to help you, they are not an enemy to be feared but a friend to confide in. Most psychologist's offices are very laid back, usually with a few chairs and no torture devices. There might even be a box of tissues in the room somewhere just in case things get a little to emotional. Allowing yourself to be open to the psychologist is the most important thing in this session. Simply try to allow yourself to relax as much as possible even through it may be hard. Most people find they feel awkward and anxious during there first session, but these feeling fade away after the first couple appointments. Sessions usually last anywhere from 45-55 minutes long. Do not be afraid to explain how your feeling in the first appointment, the psychologist expects this.
During the first session the psychologist usually asks a lot of questions about your life in general. I would compare it to a first date when you trying to get to know a stranger. After this session of Q&A there will most likely be some time near the end of the first session where the psychologist will ask you what your goals for your time there with him are. Do you want to be happier, do you want to work to beat depression, do you want to have a confident so that you can relieve yourself of some of the stress in life. The answer can be as general or specific as you want it be. This will be about all that go's on in the first session.
Now I am going to briefly explain how psychologist diagnose there patients during therapy.Most psychologists use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM IV) to diagnose there patients. There is currently a fifth edition out but it is not currently being used. Basically, there are 5 axe's to diagnosis which I will list below. I used the actual manual from http://allpsych.com/disorders/dsm.html but I also added some explanation in parentheses to make it easier to look through)
Axis I: Clinical Syndromes (Mental Disorders)
This is what we typically think of as the diagnosis (e.g., depression, schizophrenia, social phobia)
Axis II: Developmental Disorders and Personality Disorders
Developmental disorders include autism and mental retardation, disorders which are typically first evident in childhood
Personality disorders are clinical syndromes which have a more long lasting symptoms and encompass the individual's way of interacting with the world. They include Paranoid, Antisocial, and Borderline Personality Disorders.
Axis III: Physical Conditions ( illness) which play a role in the development, continuance, or exacerbation of Axis I and II Disorders
Physical conditions such as brain injury or HIV/AIDS that can result in symptoms of mental illness are included here.
Axis IV: Severity of Psychosocial Stress Inducers ( Events, traumatic events, etc.)
Events in a persons life, such as death of a loved one, starting a new job, college, unemployment, and even marriage can impact the disorders listed in Axis I and II. These events are both listed and rated for this axis.
Axis V: Highest Level of Functioning (diagnosis)
On the final axis, the clinician rates the person's level of functioning both at the present time and the highest level within the previous year. This helps the clinician understand how the above four axes are affecting the person and what type of changes could be expected.(this is a rating of the ability of the patient to function in society low to high. Ex. a 10 out of 100 would be a danger to themselves and others. a 90 out of 100 would be very functional in society and life.)
Now I know that is a lot to take in, but it basically explains how a psychologist is evaluating you while in sessions. Just so you know what he is writing down or at least why he is. I hope that this article has helped people who are planning on going to a psychologist to understand the process and get the general idea of what is going to happen, I truly believe that if people would just allow themselves to keep an open mind and not think about the typical stigmas that are applied to psychologists(shrinks) they would get a lot out of the experience.
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