Many of my clients start their first session by admitting how nervous they are to come see me. I usually respond by letting them know that it is completely normal to be nervous – who wouldn’t be? Here they are sitting in the office of a person they have never met, getting ready to share some of the most private parts of their lives.
Luckily there are things a new client can do to help manage the nerves of the first session. And one of those things is: be prepared. So in the spirit of preparedness, I have compiled a list of things you should bring to your first therapy session.
- Form of payment. Most health providers expect payment at the time of service, and psychologists are no exception – so be prepared to pay when you arrive. It’s a good idea to bring a credit card and your check book, just in case the psychologist has a preference (or doesn’t accept one or the other).
- Insurance card. If you plan to use your health insurance to cover your mental health sessions, be sure to bring your current card – your psychologist won’t be able to bill the insurer without it. It’s also a good idea to know what your “outpatient mental health” benefits are. What is your copay? Do you have a deductible? Do you need a pre-authorization? Things will go much more smoothly if you have this information ahead of time.
- New patient paperwork. Believe it or not, many of us psychologists have joined the digital age and have our new patient paperwork on our websites to be downloaded, printed, and filled out before you arrive. If you’re not sure, or there is no website, ask your psychologist if there is paperwork to be filled out and if you can do it beforehand. It is much more comfortable to work on it at home rather than rushing through it on a clipboard in the psychologist’s office the day of the appointment.
- Water. I try to remember to ask my patients if they would like a glass of water when they arrive, but sadly I often forget. All that talking can make a person thirsty though, so you may want to bring your own.
- Pen and paper. I find that some of my most engaged and successful clients take notes during our sessions. You might think you will remember everything that is said, suggested, or asked during the session – but you probably won’t. To make the most out of your time, jot a few main points down.
- Your calendar. Most people enter therapy with the idea that they will be attending at least a few sessions. Bring your calendar so you can schedule the next session or two while you are there. It makes the whole process run a lot more smoothly.
- Your ideas. While not an essential on your first visit, I think it is helpful for both the client and the provider when folks have an idea of what they want to work on in therapy. Having at least a vague idea of what you want to accomplish can make the therapy process more efficient and effective.