A Few Questions You Might Have Before Attending Therapy Sessions

In India, there are nearly about 2,000 licensed clinical psychologists. But how can you find the one who’s right for you?

We strongly believe that therapists and clients have to work together, so finding the right match is important. Good “chemistry” between client and therapist is critical. So don’t be afraid to interview potential therapists about their training, clinical expertise and experience in treating problems like yours. Whether you interview therapists during a phone call, in a special 15-minute consultation, or before your first session, look for someone who makes you feel comfortable and confident.

What should you ask yourself?

When you’re ready to select therapists, think about the following points:

  • What are your main goals for psychotherapy?
  • Will you be attending the sessions all by yourself, with your spouse, or with a family member?
  • If you’ll be paying out of pocket, how much can you afford?
  • How far are you willing to drive?
  • What days and timings would be convenient?
  • What difficulties could you face in starting and/or continuing therapy?
What should you ask your therapists?

What should you ask your therapists?

You’ll need to gather some information from the psychologists whose names you have found out.

The best way to make initial contact with the therapist is on a phone call. While you may be tempted to send an email, it’s less secure than the telephone when it comes to confidentiality. The therapists will call you back anyway. Moreover, it’s faster for everyone to talk rather than having to write everything down.

However, our therapists are often busy with clients. They might not always answer their phones right away. Just leave a message with your name, phone number and a brief description of your situation.

Once you connect with the therapist, a few questions you can ask our therapists are:

  • Are you currently accepting new clients? (Sometimes our schedule doesn’t permit us to take new clients due to  the load of continuing clients for a few weeks)
  • Do you work with men, women, children, teens, couples or families? (Whatever group you are looking for.) Some of our therapists work with a specific population.
  • Are you a licensed psychologist according to Indian laws? Are you registered with RCI?
  • For how many years have you been practicing?
  • What are your areas of expertise?
  • Are you experienced in helping people with symptoms and problems like mine?
  • What is your approach to treatment? Have the treatment methods you use been proven effective for dealing with my problem?
  • What are your fees? Do you have a sliding-scale policy if I can’t afford your regular fees? Do you accept credit cards or personal checks? Do you expect payment at the time of service?
  • What are your policies concerning things like missed appointments?

If you have particular concerns that are deal-breakers for you, ask the psychologist about them. You might want to work with a psychologist who shares your religious views or cultural background, for example. Some psychologists are more open to disclosing personal information than others. Their response will give you some important information about whether the two of you will work well together or not.

While you’re assessing a psychologist, he or she will also be assessing you. To ensure that psychotherapy is successful, the psychologist must determine whether there’s a good match when it comes to personality as well as professional expertise. If the psychologist feels the fit isn’t right – perhaps because you need someone with a different specialty area – he or she will refer you to another psychologist who can help you better.

Making your FIRST Appointment!

You may feel nervous about contacting a psychologist. That anxiety is perfectly normal. But having the courage to overcome that anxiety and making a call is the first step in the process of empowering yourself to feel better. It can bring a sense of relief and put you on a more positive path from confusion to clarity.

We understand how difficult it can be to make initial contact. The first call is something new for you, but it’s something we handle regularly. Leave a message with your name, your contact number and why you are calling us. It’s enough to just say that you are interested in knowing more about psychotherapy. Once your call is returned, we’ll lead a brief conversation to get a better sense of what you need, whether we will be able to help you, and when you can make an appointment.

You might be tempted to take the first available appointment slot. Take a few minutes to stop and think before you do. If it does not fit with your schedule, you can ask if there are other time-slots available that might fit better for you.

What factors should you consider?

You’ll need to think about the best time of your day and week to see your psychologist. The factors to be considered include:

  • Your best time of day: Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, know when you’re at your best and schedule your appointment accordingly.
  • Work: If you have to take time off from work, ask your HR department if you can use a sick leave for your psychotherapy sessions. You might also want to schedule your first appointment later in the day so you don’t have to go back to work afterward. If you have an upsetting topic to discuss, you may be tired, emotionally spent, puffy-eyed or distracted after your first session.
  • Family responsibilities: Unless your children are participating in the treatment, it’s usually not a good idea to bring them along. Choose a time when you will have child care available.
  • Other commitments: A psychotherapy session typically lasts 50 to 60 minutes. Try to schedule your session at a time when you won’t have to rush to your next appointment afterward. Worrying about being late to your next commitment will distract you from your psychotherapy session.
How should I prepare for the appointment?

Once you’ve made an appointment, ask your psychologist how you should prepare. A psychologist might ask you to:

  • Fill out new patient paperwork: He or she may also provide a packet of materials covering logistical issues, such as cancellation fees and guidelines of confidentiality.
  • Get your records from other psychologists and health care providers you’ve consulted.
  • You may also want to prepare a list of questions, such as the average treatment duration, the psychologist’s feelings about medication, the books that focus on your issue etc.
  • Learn about therapy: If any of your friends have attended psychotherapy sessions, ask them what it was like. You can also read up on the subject. If you’ve had a psychotherapy session before, think about what you liked and didn’t like about your former psychologist’s approach to therapy.
  • Keep an open mind: Even if you’re skeptical about psychotherapy or are just going because someone told you to, be willing to give it a try. Be willing to be open and honest so you can take the greatest advantage of this opportunity to learn more about yourself.
  • Make sure you know where you’re going. Click here for directions to our clinic.
What should I bring for my first appointment?

It’s normal to feel nervous when you head off to your first psychotherapy appointment. Preparing ahead of time and knowing what to expect can help calm your nerves.

What should I bring?

A typical psychotherapy session lasts 50 to 60 minutes; sometimes our first sessions go beyond this. To make the most of your time, make a list of the points you want to cover in your first session and what you want to work on in psychotherapy. Be prepared to share information about what’s bringing you to the psychologist. Even a vague idea of what you want to accomplish can help you and your psychologist proceeds efficiently and effectively.

If you’ve been referred by another professional, such as a physician or attorney, notes about why they did so can be helpful. If a teacher suggested that your child undergoes psychotherapy/counseling, you might bring in report cards and/or notes from his or her teacher. We might also call these professionals for additional information if you give written permission. Records from previous psychotherapy or psychological testing can also help us to know you better.

If you’re on any medications, note down the medications and their dosage so that we can have that information.

It can be difficult to remember everything that happens during a psychotherapy session. A notebook can help you capture your therapist’s questions and/or suggestions and your own questions and ideas. Writing a few things down during your session can even help you stay engaged in the process.

Most people have more than a single session of psychotherapy. Bring your calendar so you can schedule your next appointment before you leave our clinic.

You’ll also need to bring some form of payment. If you’ll be paying for the session out of pocket, bring along a checkbook or cash.

What should I expect?

For your first session, your psychologist may ask you to come in a little early to fill out paperwork.

Don’t worry that you won’t know what to do once the session actually begins. It’s normal to feel a little anxious in the first few sessions. Psychologists have experience in setting the tone and getting things started. They are trained to guide each session in effective ways to help you get closer to your goals. In fact, the first session might seem like a game of 20 questions!

Sitting face to face with you, your psychologist could start off by acknowledging the courage it takes to start psychotherapy. He or she may also go over logistical matters, such as fees, how to make or cancel an appointment, and the guidelines of confidentiality if he or she hasn’t already done so over the phone.

Then, the psychologist may ask a question like, “What brought you here today?” or “What made you decide to come in now rather than a month or a year ago?” It helps to identify your problem even if you’re not sure why you have it or how to handle it. For example, you might feel angry or sad without knowing what’s causing your feelings or how to stop feeling that way. If the problem is too painful to talk about, the psychologist shouldn’t push you to say more than you’re comfortable sharing until you get to know each other better. It’s okay for you to say that you are not ready to talk about something just yet.

Your psychologists will also want to know about your own and your family’s history of psychological problems such as depression, anxiety or similar issues. You’ll explore how your problem is affecting your everyday life. Your psychologist will ask questions like whether you’ve noticed any changes in your sleeping habits, appetite or other behaviors. Furthermore, the psychologist will also want to know what kind of social support you have so he or she will ask about your family, friends, and coworkers.

It’s important to not rush this process, which may take more than one session. While guiding you through the process, your psychologist will let you set the pace when it comes to telling your life story. As you gain trust in your psychologist and the process, you may be willing to share things you didn’t feel comfortable answering at first.

Once your psychologist has a full history, the two of you will work together to create a treatment plan. This collaborative goal-setting is important because both of you need to be invested in achieving your goals. Your psychologist may write down the goals and read them back to you, so you’re both clear about what you’ll be working on.

At the end of your first session, the psychologist may also have suggestions for immediate action. If you’re depressed, for example, the psychologist might suggest seeing a physician to rule out any underlying medical conditions, such as a thyroid disorder. If you have chronic pain, you may need physical therapy, medication, and help for insomnia as well as psychotherapy.

By the end of the first few sessions, you should have a new understanding of your problem, a game plan and a new sense of hope.

Should I worry about confidentiality?

We consider maintaining your privacy extremely important. It is a part of our professional code of ethics. More importantly, it is a condition for our professional license. Psychologists who violate patient confidentiality risk losing their ability to practice in the future.

To make your psychotherapy as effective as possible, you need to be open and honest about your most private thoughts and behaviors. That can be nerve-wracking, but you don’t have to worry about your psychologist sharing your secrets with anyone except in the most extreme situations. However, if you reveal that you plan to hurt yourself or others, for example, your psychologist is duty-bound to report that to authorities for your own protection and the safety of others. Psychologists must also report abuse, exploitation or neglect of children, the elderly or people with disabilities. Your psychologist may also have to provide some information in court cases if it is required.

Of course, you can always give your psychologist written permission to share all, or some part of, your discussions with your physician, teachers or anyone else if you desire.

We take confidentiality so seriously that we may not even acknowledge that we know you if you bump into us at the supermarket or anywhere else. And it’s okay for you to not say hello either. We won’t feel bad; we understand that you’re protecting your privacy.

Understanding MEDICATION.

In our quick-fix culture, people often hope a pill will offer fast relief from such problems as depression or anxiety. Primary care physicians or practitioners most people’s first contact when they have a psychological problem, are typically trained to prescribe medication. They don’t have the extensive training or the time to provide psychotherapy for mental health related problems.

Is medication effective?

There are some psychological conditions, such as severe depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, where medication is clearly warranted. But many other cases are less clear-cut.

Evidence suggests that in many cases, medication doesn’t always work. In a 2010 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, for instance, researchers reviewed previous research on the effectiveness of antidepressants. They found that antidepressants did help people with severe cases of depression. For mild to moderate depression, however, the medication wasn’t any more effective than a placebo or a fake pill.

Moreover, medications don’t help you develop the skills you need to deal with life’s problems. Once you stop taking medication, your problems often remain or come back. In contrast, psychotherapy will teach you new problem-solving strategies that will also help you cope with future problems.

Do I need medication?

If you can function relatively well- meaning you can function well at work or school and have healthy relationships with family and friends – the answer is probably no. Psychotherapy alone can be very effective. Or, you might just need a more balanced lifestyle – one that combines work, exercise, and social interactions.

Nevertheless, medication can be useful in some situations. Sometimes, people need medication to get to a point where they’re able to engage in psychotherapy. Medication can also help those with serious mental health disorders. For some conditions, combining psychotherapy and medication works the best.

How can I get medication if I need it?

If you need medication, we will work with your primary care provider or a psychiatrist to ensure a coordinated approach to treatment that is in your best interest.

What happens after psychotherapy ends?

You probably visit your physician for periodic check-ups. You can do the same with your psychologist.

You might want to meet with your psychologist again a couple of weeks or a month after psychotherapy ends just to report how you’re doing. If all is well, you can wrap things up at that follow-up session.

And don’t think of psychotherapy as having a beginning, middle, and end. You can solve one problem, then face a new situation in your life and feel the skills you learned during your last course of treatment need a little tweaking. Just contact your psychologist again. After all, he or she already knows your story.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for a crisis to see your psychologist again. You might just need a “booster” session to reinforce what you learned last time. Think of it as a mental health tune-up.