Getting started: Your first psychology session

Congratulations on booking your first psychology session! Many people say that finding a psychologist is a daunting process. It takes a leap of faith to attend your first session and open up to someone new. There are many factors to consider when choosing the right practice and psychologist for you. 

As psychologists, we know that attending your first session can be nerve-wracking. We do our best to help you feel at ease. Typically, individual psychology sessions are 50 minutes in duration. This gives you time to speak to your psychologist about the things that are most important to you, without feeling rushed.  

Aims of the first session

Your first session is an opportunity for you to:

1. Meet your psychologist

In the first session, you will be able to see the way you and your psychologist relate to and understand each other. You will be able to see whether you feel comfortable, heard, respected, and understood by your psychologist. You will be able to ask any questions about the psychologist’s experience, training and therapy approaches. 

2. Explain your circumstances and current concerns 

The first session focuses on the things you are struggling with in your life. Your psychologist will ask you to explain what led up to your current issues and how these issues are affecting your life. This might include your self-worth and identity, happiness in your relationships, performance and satisfaction in your work or study, and sense of purpose and meaning in your life. Your psychologist will also ask you what you want to change or improve as a result of your sessions.   

If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry! Your psychologist will help you out by asking questions throughout the session. It may take time for you to feel comfortable to speak about and trust your psychologist with certain topics. That’s ok. You can let your psychologist know and they will give you the space and time you need to feel ready discuss these concerns. You might choose not to discuss all issues in your first session. 

3. Receive feedback about your current concerns and the options for treatment

Your psychologist will check their understanding of your concerns to make sure you’re both on the same page. They will clarify the issues you  help with so they know what treatment should focus on and prioritise. 

Your psychologist will then explain how they might be able to help you. They will explain the types of therapy that are most suitable and effective for your concerns. They will outline the way therapy might benefit you. 

4. Discuss a plan to get started 

Lastly, you will have a chance to ask questions about any aspect of the session, whether it be your concerns or your psychologist’s plan for your treatment. 

If you feel comfortable with your psychologist, confident that they have understood your concerns, and are interested in the treatment they offer, you can then discuss a plan to start treatment. This involves agreeing on the frequency of sessions, timing of appointments, and commitment to the therapy process.  

Further resources

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) website provides information about what psychologists do, the training we undertake, and the services we offer.

For further information on the training and services of clinical psychologists, check out the Australian Clinical Psychology Association website.

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Getting started: Your first psychology session

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