If you have made the decision to see a psychologist for counselling, or are still thinking about it, you may have questions about what to expect – particularly in that initial session.
To make your visit with M1 Psychology as smooth as possible, we’ll be answering some of the most common queries new clients have, including:
- What will happen to my information?
- What will the first session be like?
- What are psychological tests?
- What is “counselling” like?
- What are the fees?
- What if something is not working for me?
What happens to my information?
Given that you will be talking about very personal details, it is important that you understand how your psychologist will keep and protect your information.
Early in your first session your psychologist should discuss “confidentiality” with you — that is, they should explain who they might discuss your case with, and under what conditions. Your psychologist is likely to work hard to ensure that you understand what types of communication needs to occur and why, and to seek your consent.
Here are some general guidelines as to the circumstances under which information might be shared, and with whom:
- For people who are paying for their own care (including those accessing private health insurance rebates) and who are not receiving a Medicare rebate, your information will be kept private between you and your psychologist.
- When your treatment is provided under Medicare, or your costs are covered in whole or part by your workplace, your psychologist will need to talk to the person who authorised your treatment. This will often be a Doctor, rehabilitation provider, or designated HR representative where you are using an EAP service.
- Where your psychologist must discuss your case with others, they should discuss with you the type of information that they will need to pass back and in what detail. This includes children and adolescents too – both minors and their guardians will be told about what information will be kept confidential between the child and the treating psychologist, and what may need to be reported back to the guardian.
- Your psychologist will also explain the few circumstances in which they may be required to discuss your information with others, even if you don’t consent. Most of these relate to keeping either you or other people safe, or when ordered to by a court of law.
The First Session
The first session usually involves the psychologist gathering a lot of information about you. This will usually include your psychologist gaining a good understanding of your main reason for attending counselling, and what you hope to gain from it.
To do this, you may be asked about when your problems started, what makes them better or worse, and the impact that they have had on your life. Psychologists will also ask a range of questions about other factors that are likely to impact on your current issues, or the treatments that may be suitable for you. This may include asking for detail on experiences such as your:
- work history;
- health status;
- significant relationships; and
- major events in your past.
People are complex, so getting to know you will take time! Your psychologist’s understanding of you will grow over the course of your treatment, and they will likely continue to ask you for more detail about your experiences as well as how you think, feel and behave.
When your psychologist has gathered enough information to determine the nature of your concerns, they will discuss their understanding of these with you, along with what types of treatment may be helpful and whether they are able to provide them to you. Often this will occur by the end of the first session.
Psychologists will use psychological tests and measures for a range of reasons, such as helping to diagnose mental health problems, gaining insight into your personality or monitoring how your symptoms change over time. They can be very useful ways of gathering a lot of information relatively quickly.
Whenever they get you to complete a new type of test, your psychologist should explain the purpose of the tools, how they relate to your assessment or treatment, and how they will use the information.
What is “Counselling” like?
Psychological treatment usually involves work to help you change your thoughts, feelings and/or behaviours. This may occur in individual or group settings.
In an individual counselling setting, psychologists generally use “talk therapies” — that is, through talking with you they help you to develop insight into your challenges and help you to change your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Many psychological therapies also involve a behavioural component where you implement strategies in your day-to-day life. Some types of therapies may include an in-session experiential component, to allow you to target problem issues in a safe environment.
The exact nature of the processes, strategies and techniques that your psychologist will use with you depends on the therapeutic approach they are taking with you. A range of different approaches exist including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Schema Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) — to name a few. Your psychologist’s choice of approach will depend on what approaches they are trained in, as well as what is likely to work best to address your symptoms and help you to meet your goals. There is more information available on this website about the different approaches to therapy used by M1 Psychologists.
Early in your sessions you and your psychologist will identify goals for your treatment. These may include things such as reducing distressing symptoms, improving relationships, and developing coping skills. As your treatment advances, your progress towards these goals and their appropriateness for you will be reviewed and new goals developed.
What are the fees?
Fees can vary from practice to practice and between psychologists. It is a good idea to check these prior to making your appointment. If you are concerned about the out-of-pocket costs of your treatment, raise this with reception staff prior to making your booking and again with your treating psychologist at your first session, or if your financial circumstances change.
When you attend for counselling your understanding of your obligations in relation to treatment, such as fees and cancellation policies will usually be reviewed and confirmed prior to, or during your first session.
If you have been referred on a Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP) you will be eligible for Medicare rebates for an initial 6 sessions of counselling per year, and your GP may approve a further 4 where they assess this is appropriate. In some cases, such as financial hardship, some psychologists may bulk bill or offer reduced rates based on a sliding scale. However, most people will be required to pay a gap fee. Psychology services are included in the safety-net scheme, which improves the affordability of your treatment once you reach the safety net threshold.
Private health insurance
Private health insurers vary in their coverage of psychology services and the rebates they provide. If you are not on or eligible for a MHCP this can be one way of making your treatment more affordable. You should contact your insurer for advice regarding the rebates you can expect and the benefit limits.
Funded by your workplace or someone else?
Funding arrangements vary considerably. It is a good idea to understand how many sessions your funding will provide, and on what basis continuing treatment will be approved.
What if something is not working for me?
If something is not working well for you in your relationship with your psychologist, or you are uncomfortable in any aspect of your treatment, raise it with your psychologist. They may be able to quickly address your concerns, or fix things that are bugging you.
If you have discussed things with your psychologist and still feel the same way, it may be useful to talk with them about whether your challenges would be present with any psychologist. In cases where there is just not a good fit between you and your psychologist it is okay to see someone else. Your psychologist can help you to find someone suitable.
If you feel that you would benefit from seeing a psychologist, please contact us at M1 Psychology on (07) 3067 9159 or you can book online.
Author: Kelly Gall, BSc (Hons), M Psych (Health), M Clin Psych, MAPS, MCHP.
Kelly Gall is a Health Psychologist who is passionate about helping clients improve their physical and emotional wellbeing. Kelly develops tailored, holistic and evidence-based treatment plans that incorporate psychological, physical and social strategies aimed at empowering her clients to achieve relief from psychological symptoms and improve their health.
To make an appointment with Health Psychologist Kelly Gall, call (07) 3067 9129 or you can book online today.