If you are a new client who has never been to see a mental health professional, the first time that you come to our waiting room it is quite normal to feel a little nervous. For that reason our office manager, Brenda, takes extra care to make our new clients feel welcome.
Brenda has been a mental health professional for more than nine years and she will in all likelihood be the first person that you will meet when you come to the front desk. She will first of all ask you if you would like a beverage (ie. coffee, soda, or water) while you are filling out your paperwork. You will need to bring your insurance card if you are going to use health insurance and a drivers license or other form of identification.
You will be asked to fill out a basic information form, a short written outline of what to expect in therapy, and a short form that asks you about which of the 90 possible symptoms you are experiencing. This will take only a few minutes but we ask that you come 15 minutes before your scheduled visit to be sure that you have ample time to fill out these forms.
I will come out to the waiting room to greet you and take you back to my office. It is a large "sage green" room with comfortable chairs, large floor to ceiling windows that overlook our parking lot. The first meeting is really a "getting to know you" session in which you get a chance to ask me questions and I will ask you some as well. I always encourage clients to speak whatever is on their minds and know that whatever their feelings, thoughts or opinions are they are welcome to speak freely in my office. Psychologists are bound by law to practice strict confidentiality and cannot divulge anything directly to another person without the permission of their client. This frees up the client to be quite open about whatever is the therapeutic issue that needs to be addressed.
The first session or two will be an opportunity for the client to decide if they feel comfortable with the psychologist (if my clients don't feel comfortable I will gladly refer them to another psychologist) and for the psychologist to develop a diagnosis as well as a treatment plan. Just a physician must make an accurate diagnosis in order to precisely treat a physical disease, so a psychologist has to ask many questions and perhaps do some evaluations in order to diagnose and treat emotional issues as well. Insurance companies require diagnosis in order for them to pay the psychologist so it is important work that must be done in the first few sessions.
Many clients state that after a few sessions they "feel very safe" coming to counseling, also called psychotherapy, and look forward to the opportunity to unload thoughts and feelings that they may not be comfortable sharing anywhere else. Last week I had one client who stated that she "immediately felt better just walking into our offices" after she had a very stressful day knowing that she could look forward to 50 minutes of time to talk about anything that was bothering her.
It may take only a few sessions to achieve the client's goals in counseling or it may be months or even years before they are satisfied with the changes that have taken place in their lives. In many cases E.A.P. (Employee Assistance Plans) will pay for five or six free visits and that may be all that is required to meet the behavioral changes that are the goals of the client.
If you have any questions about counseling or psychotherapy please call the office at 881-1580.