How to Get Ready for a Therapy Appointment

September 14, 2015 Becky Oberg

Do you know how to get ready for a therapy appointment? Therapy, like an appointment for any medical condition, is much more efficient when certain steps are taken. However, since there is still a stigma attached to therapy, people might not know what these steps are. So here are some suggestions on how to get ready for a therapy appointment.

How To Get Ready For A Therapy Appointment #1: List Your Symptoms

You may not know what exactly is wrong. You may only know that something's wrong with the way you feel. When you wonder how to get ready for a therapy appointment, don't diagnose yourself. Instead, pay attention to your mental health symptoms and list them. The more detail, the better. Information is crucial to making a correct diagnosis. Take the list to your therapy appointment.

For example, you may not be sleeping at night. There could be several different reasons for this, so you should tell the therapist what other symptoms you're having. You may be hyped enough to jump out of your skin. You may be restless, irritable, and discontent. You may have crying spells. It will help to write your symptoms down in advance. Don't worry about going into too much detail--I once wrote a page and a half of symptoms, which helped the therapist know how to help me.

Know what your symptoms are. Don't assume something is normal if it bothers you. Also, don't assume a symptom is a personal weakness. You wouldn't assume chest pain is normal and a sign of some personal failing. Why should emotional pain be any different?

How To Get Ready For A Therapy Appointment #2: Do Your Homework

One sad fact is that anyone can call him/herself a therapist. This can lead to someone unqualified practicing therapy. For example, I once saw a "therapist" whose only qualifications were reading a book and attending a seminar. Long story short, she was unqualified to treat my posttraumatic stress disorder (she thought it was Satanic in origin and refused to treat me until I was ready to forgive). Don't make my mistake--get someone qualified.

Ask your therapist what their qualifications are to treat you. Ask what kind of education and training they have. Ask if they are licensed. You wouldn't go to a specialist for a medical illness without knowing what exactly makes them qualified to treat you. Mental illness should not be any different.

Above all, trust your instincts. If you don't trust the therapist, consider finding a different one. For example, I once had a bad feeling about a psychiatrist. I did a background check on him and learned that he had served time in federal prison for Medicaid fraud. Needless to say, as soon as I could find a different psychiatrist (which was tricky as I was under court commitment), I did so.

Do your homework. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How To Get Ready For A Therapy Appointment #3: Understand Confidentiality

One last thing on how to get ready for a therapy appointment: understand the confidentiality procedures (what your therapist is allowed to say to others about you). Basically, everything that's said in the office stays in the office unless one of four criteria is met. According to the Mayo Clinic1, these criteria are:

  1. Threatening to immediately or soon (imminently) harm yourself or commit suicide
  2. Threatening to immediately or soon (imminently) harm or take the life of another person
  3. Abusing a child or a vulnerable adult (someone older than age 18 who is hospitalized or made vulnerable by a disability)
  4. Being unable to safely care for yourself

Remember, your therapist has probably heard it before. Nothing you say will shock them. They will keep what you say confidential, to the point where they may not even greet you outside the office.

There are times your therapist may ask your permission to break confidentiality. For example, one of my therapists was concerned that my symptoms were increasing, so she asked if it was okay if she talked to my psychiatrist. In a situation like this, they will ask you to sign some paperwork to prove you said it was okay for them to talk to someone else (HIPAA Law: Psychiatric Disclosure Fact and Myth). I would recommend saying yes when they do this because it can only help.

So those are three steps to prepare for a therapy appointment. Remember, forewarned is forearmed--know your symptoms, know what you're getting into, and understand confidentiality. Be prepared--you'll receive more effective treatment, and that's the goal. The more you prepare, the better the treatment you'll get. And you deserve the best treatment you can get.

1 Cognitive behavioral therapy: What you can expect. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2015.

You can also find Becky Oberg on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and on her blog, One Woman and a Laptop.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2015, September 14). How to Get Ready for a Therapy Appointment, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 23 from

Author: Becky Oberg

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