Making the most of therapy

So you’ve decided to take the first step and make an appointment. Here’s some information that will help you to get the most out of your sessions.

What to expect in your first session

What has been happening in your life? What kind of challenges are you facing? The first session is all about telling your story. Your psychologist will ask you to talk about the problems that have brought you to therapy. They will talk with you about how you are thinking and feeling, and find out what things have been like for you in the light of your issues. They may also ask you about your past history, the background factors that have contributed to where you are now.

For some people the first session can be challenging – you may be telling your story for the first time, or perhaps you need to talk about things that are very emotional. We know how hard it can be. As psychologists we aim to listen without judgement, to offer support and understanding. Sometimes the mere act of talking about an issue with someone else can help to clarify and bring insight.

To design the best treatment for you, we need to know as much as possible about what is happening for you and how your problem or issue is affecting you. For this reason, you may be asked to complete some questionnaires before your first session, and at other times during treatment. After you have completed each questionnaire, your psychologist will discuss the results with you.  In addition, we may ask you to keep a diary or to record what is happening so we can get a better understanding of it.

Your goals

During the first session your psychologist will ask you about your goals for therapy. What are you hoping to get out of it? What would you like to change or improve? How do you want things to be different? To get the most out of therapy, have a think about your goals before you attend the first session. Our job as psychologists is to work collaboratively with you, to help you move towards the things that are important to you, so we really want to know about your hopes, dreams and passions.  We aim to work in partnership with you to help you achieve your goals.

Planning for change

Once we have gathered all the information we need, we are ready to talk with you about how we can help. (Usually we are able to do this at the end of the first session, but it may take a few sessions if the situation is complicated.) Your psychologist will talk with you about the treatment approach that they feel will be most useful. They will also discuss how long treatment will take and the frequency of sessions. Typically at our practice we see people either weekly or fortnightly.  Sometimes, after hearing your story, your psychologist may feel that psychological therapy isn’t what is needed.  If this is the case, they will spend some time talking with you about referral options and alternative ways of achieving your goals.

After the first session, what happens next?

During each subsequent session, your psychologist will offer techniques to help you make the changes you want to see in your life. (For example, see here for more information about treatments we offer for anxiety and depression). Therapy usually involves learning new skills and ways of thinking, and putting these into practice in your own life outside of sessions. Yes, you will have homework! But don’t worry, your psychologist will provide plenty of support and encouragement along the way. To get the most out of this stage of therapy, you’ll need to be willing to try new things and to practice at home. As in all things, we find that those who do their homework are more likely to get the results they are hoping for.

Towards the end of your treatment, hopefully you’ll be starting to notice some significant changes in your life.  In collaboration with your psychologist you may decide to reduce the frequency of sessions, and to work towards a final session.  This final stage of therapy is all about consolidating your skills, recognizing your abilities and building resilience, for the purpose of living a rich, full and meaningful life.

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