What to Expect When you Come to a Psychotherapy Appointment

Michael’s office is located in a professional mental health clinic—a clean, comfortable space that offers the assurance of confidentiality and privacy. 

One of the most important aspects of psychotherapy is that it is confidential. This means that your psychologist will never disclose anything you tell him to a third party, without your prior consent (for instance, your psychologist might ask to consult with your medical doctor, or a previous therapist you have worked with, in the interest of providing you with the best treatment possible). The only limit to client-psychologist confidentiality is called the “principle of imminent harm”. This means that, if you disclose to your psychologist that you plan to do physical harm to someone else, they will be ethically obligated to report this threat to the authorities. In the first session, you will be asked to sign a declaration of “informed consent”, which specifies the mutually-agreed terms of the counselling you will receive. 

Perhaps the most important detail is: what to expect during a counselling session? In the first few sessions your psychologist will conduct an “assessment”. Although this sounds somewhat formal, this process is mainly a series of friendly conversations, with the following aims: 

  1. for your psychologist to get to know you, 
  2. to clarify your specific goals (i.e. to clearly define why you’re here, and what you hope to get out of psychotherapy) 
  3. to begin formulating a treatment plan together, which will help you attain your goals. 

During the assessment sessions, you may be asked to fill out some brief forms, which will help your psychologist develop your treatment plan. 

During the first few sessions, another goal is to foster the development of a “therapeutic alliance” between you and your psychologist. This alliance is a bond of trust and goodwill, in which you feel safe to share things that might make you feel vulnerable. Once this alliance is established, the main part of the work can begin.