Going to see a psychologist can initially be quite daunting. You’re essentially sitting down with a stranger and sharing your life and the various challenges that you’re confronting. That’s isn’t something that we naturally do, and so it can be really anxiety-provoking.
Step one should be having a chat to your GP about whether a Care Plan is appropriate for you. If your GP agrees, it means that you can claim a Medicate rebate for the first ten appointments in each calendar year. If you see a Clinical Psychologist, the rebate is currently $124.50 per session. In some cases, it may be possible to have these ten sessions bulk-billed.
The first appointment with your psychologist is really just a chance for the two of you to get to know each other. While your doctor will almost certainly provide some important information in your referral and care plan, it won’t be anywhere near enough – because one of the most important things is that I understand you. That means getting to know you, and what you’ve been going through. It involves getting to know you in the broad context of your life – your family, your friends, and perhaps even your childhood. That is, your life trajectory and how you have become the person you are. For example, many people tell me that they have ‘always’ been anxious. If that’s the case, it’s important to understand how that began.
One of the most important facets of the therapeutic process is that you need to get on with your psychologist. In a sense, you need to “like” me. It doesn’t matter whether, technically, I’m the best psychologist in the world, if you don’t like me then we aren’t going to work well together. You need to feel comfortable, and that will also help you to trust what I might suggest. When all is said and done, “I” can’t cure you. It’s a cliché, but all I can do is help you help yourself.
So, I hope you can see that we work for you! You’re the boss in this process. You drive it. The more clear you can be about what you want to achieve, and how seeing a psychologist is going to make a positive difference in your life, the far more tailored we can make the approach. Your psychologist will, of course, have their own ideas about what might be happening and what is going to be helpful, but the process works best when it is driven by you.
Another aspect that can concern people is the question of how confidential the process is. Psychologists take this very seriously. We don’t talk to anyone at all about what is said to us during an appointment. We do have to write to your referring GP at various points during your treatment, but even then the reports focus mainly on your progress and what we’re planning to work on with you. There are a couple of caveats, though. If we think that there’s a risk of you hurting yourself or someone else, we’ll do whatever it takes to stop that happening. Also, we must disclose information to a court if we are ordered to – just as your GP must.
We will then undertake an assessment, a diagnosis, and a treatment plan – and we will share that with you. We all need to know where we’re going, and that should fit in with your goals. We will check in with you at each appointment, including talking about anything we might have suggested you do differently out in the real world. We’re talking about you actually living your life differently, and in a better way.