The first visit to a psychotherapist – what should you expect?


You sign up for an appointment with a psychologist and you have no idea what you should expect? Or maybe, you have not yet decided whether to go or not and you don’t know where to start? 

Remember that now you are taking a very important step on your way to achieving mental well-being. 

In Poland, psychotherapy is often associated with severe mental disorders, however, a consultation with a psychologist is actually a remedy for anyone experiencing mental problems, including less serious ones. Initial resistance that patients might feel before deciding on psychotherapy is a natural thing. Being vulnerable and talking openly about one’s problems is not easy. However, it is crucial to get over the initial fear and the feeling of shame. A consultation with a psychotherapist is a time to discuss a patient’s problems, understand their possible causes, and get a piece of advice from an objective individual who is not personally involved in the situation. Therapy allows for not only managing already existing problems, but also for educating a patient and helping them change their behaviors in the future. 

The first appointment with a psychologist is a chance to discuss the particular problem we face and try to look at it from the outside perspective. The issue does not need to be precisely explained. Difficulties in communication with a close person or bad mental state can be our starting point during the conversation, during which the therapist will help you specify particular areas and issues connected to them that need attention. Such conversation does not require any previous preparation. Nevertheless, it would be helpful if the patient tries to be as open and comfortable as possible during the appointment. The success of such a session depends on the cooperation process between the patient and the psychologist. There are no good or bad answers, only personal statements, and opinions. Every patient’s situation is different, so the psychologist will need to get to know every individual’s story in-depth to fully understand them and be able to implement needed elements of therapy. 

The first session, first and foremost, allows us to understand if a given field, a person, and their work ethic are suitable to your needs as a patient. You can expect that after the first visit the therapist will offer you an outlook on how next meetings might look like. Depending on the complexity of the discussed problem and the psychologist’s specialization, they can suggest a series of meetings or a visit with another therapist or a doctor. The frequency of appointments, payment methods, and rules of canceling meetings should also be clear after the first visit. 

Usually, a single meeting lasts for about 50 minutes, however, estimating the overall time needed for the entire therapy is not an easy task. The needed amount of time depends on numerous factors and sadly it cannot be calculated instantly. Consultations that aim at specifying the problem and setting the goal of the therapy session can last during the first few meetings, however, the entire detailed process requires up to 6 months. 

Moreover, you should not be afraid to ask questions if something is not clear or if you want to know more about the therapist’s qualifications and techniques they use. Successful therapy is the one that is consequently led for a longer period, therefore, you need to be sure about the therapist you choose to work with. You do not have to decide right away whether you want to continue the therapy. Psychotherapy requires long-term commitment, that’s why you should not make any decisions by impulse.  

Working on your emotions and understanding particular situations in your life requires a lot of personal engagement and energy. It is not surprising that after a therapy session you might feel tired. Try your best to relax and consider that your nervous system needs time to rest, similar to your muscles that require regeneration after a hard workout. Just as in the case of strength training, the effort you put into therapy is for your good and by staying consistent and putting in the energy consistently you can achieve fantastic results.