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What to Expect from a Visit at the Psychiatrist or Therapist

Updated on December 14, 2010

A first time visit to a therapist can be a pretty intimidating event, bringing to mind all the images of a therapist office that we read about in literature, see in movies and conjure up in our heads. There are several procedures we see in movies or read about in books that you may never experience while visiting a therapist.

Your first few visits to a therapist will be about getting to know you and your history. The therapist will discuss guidelines, fees, heath insurance coverage, and a treatment plan. You will have forms to fill out and questions will be asked. It is important that you feel comfortable with the therapist and they will do their best to make sure you are comfortable talking to them about your concerns.

Therapy is not mind control or magic. Therapists will have either a Psychodynamic Orientation, a Behavioral Orientation or will work within a Cognitive Orientation. Check with your therapist to see what approach they have to your treatment. Each approach to treatment can be successful and will bring results. Several therapy techniques are used by a therapist, therefore it is very important you chose your therapist based on your comfort level and needs.

You will not be forced to lie down on a couch. Simply because he did not want his patients looking at him, Sigmund Freud had his patients lie on a couch as he sat behind them. Unless it is for sessions where more than one person is in the office at a time, modern therapist may not even have a couch in their office. Most of the time, you will be to talking directly to the therapist, face to face, while they are taking notes of the conversation.

Expect that you will be doing most of the talking. Self-reflection is a common element of modern psychiatry. Therefore by asking you key questions about your self, your feelings, what your life is like, the therapist can help you understand your current concerns and behaviors. Be prepared to answer questions honestly and with thought. Listen to your answers and try to understand what point the questions are bringing to the surface.

Understand that therapy is not all about your childhood. Not everything is your mother’s fault. Therapists trained in the Freudian tradition believe your problems may have some (not all) basis in your childhood and upbringing, as a result, most modern therapists will want you to live in the here-and-now and regardless of what your past experiences were, you should focus on what you can change in the present to make your life better.

Not everyone with a mental illness is a danger to others. Most people with psychological problems never commit crimes. The percentage of crimes committed by those diagnosed with a mental illness compared to the percentage of crimes committed by persons without a diagnosis of mental illness, does not show any increase in violent crimes because of a mental illness. In fact, research has shown the people with serious mental illness are the victims of crimes more often than the average person. According to a study from NorthwesternUniversity, people with mental illness are more likely to be robbed, to be victims of rape, or victims of theft. On average, nearly one-fourth of persons with a serious mental illness are victims of violent crimes.

Admitting you have thoughts about suicide will not get you immediately committed to the hospital. Many people often wonder about suicide and ask themselves, “What will happen if I just die?” “Will anyone miss me?” “Will any one care?” Questions such as these are normal and become a concern to the psychologist only if you act out on your thoughts and have a plan of suicide. Unless you have a definite plan of how and where and when you are going to attempt suicide, the psychologist will not immediately commit you to a hospital.

It is important that you feel comfortable talking to your therapist about any subject, including your deepest fears. Unlike a best friend, a therapist is required by law to keep your conversations private and not share your information with any one. If you have concerns or problems that are getting out of hand, do some research and find a therapist to help you. Treatment may be as short as a few weeks - why not take care of the problem now before it affects every part of your life? You can find therapists on-line, get names from your health care provider or referrals from help groups such as AA or NA. With a little bit of effort, you may soon have all your troubles behind you.

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