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For newcomers preparing for your first therapy session can be a little confusing. Typically the confusion is caused by not understanding how to prepare and schedule your appointment. And, the overwhelm of doing so may cause you to put off therapy. Before you give up, I want to share some simple tips to help guide you when preparing and scheduling your first therapy session. 

Paying For Your First Therapy Session

One of the first and most important steps is to choose or find a therapist. This process does include a few different tasks. These tasks will vary depending on whether you have insurance and if your insurance plan covers therapists. Additionally, if you don’t have insurance, you’ll have to pay for your first therapy session and subsequent sessions out of pocket. These factors will impact how you pay for your first session and future appointments. So, let’s break this process down as it pertains to being insured or uninsured. 

If You Have Insurance

First things first, call your insurance provider regarding mental health benefits and what they cover. Key questions that you should ask them include:

  • Do they cover outpatient services?
  • Is there a limit on how many services they cover?
  • If so, how many sessions are covered?
  • What is the typical co-payment for therapy appointments?
  • Have you met your deductible for the year?
  • If so, will your co-insurance or co-pay apply?

These are just a few examples of important questions to ask. This way, you’ll be fully aware of the benefits set forth by your insurance provider. Consequently, this information will allow you to determine how much you will have to pay for therapy out of pocket if anything. 

insurance for your first therapy session

If You’re Uninsured

Dealing with inadequate insurance coverage or not having insurance at all means you’ll have to pay out of pocket. Furthermore, you’ll want to discuss fees and payments ahead of time. So, as you begin choosing your therapist, make sure to inquire about fees and the cost of services. Many providers provide self-pay discounts for patients paying out of pocket. But, determining fees beforehand can help you budget and plan the cost of your therapy. As well as allow you the opportunity to compare the cost of services between therapists. Which allows you to choose a therapist that aligns with your budget.  

Choosing A Qualified Therapist

After you’ve determined how you’re going to pay for therapy, it’s time to choose your therapist. There are a few different ways you can go about this. The first being if you have insurance, you can look for in-network therapists that accept your plan. On the other hand, if you’re not insured, getting referrals may prove more beneficial. People who can provide you with a referral include your primary care provider and family and friends who are undergoing therapy. 

If these options don’t provide you with results, you can search professional online resources. Sites such as the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies provide a list of available providers in your area. Additionally, the American Psychological Association also provides options for providers near your location. 

Lastly, you may want to consider other options such as Better Help, Talkspace, or Online Therapy. These companies provide what’s known as “internet therapy,” which can be an affordable option for many who don’t have insurance coverage.

I recommend creating a list of potential therapists. This way, you can speak and research multiple therapists to determine who offers the services that would most benefit you. Such as areas they specialize in, types of therapy they provide, experience, training, insurance they accept, cost, and location. 

Scheduling Your First Therapist Appointment

Once you’ve created a list of potential therapists, you can begin calling to determine if they’re a good fit. Ask questions about their scheduling structure, and if there are any important rules or guidelines, you should know. Furthermore, you can also inquire about their training and expertise in certain areas and how long they’ve been in practice. 

Additionally, you also want to make sure you ask them about insurances they accept, what their fees and expense are. And if they offer a self-pay discount for those paying out of pocket. Upon finding a provider you believe is appropriate, you can finally schedule your first therapist appointment. 

choosing a therapist

Preparation for Your Appointment

Now that the most time-consuming part of the process is complete, you can dedicate time to mentally preparing for your first therapist appointment. The first step is to determine your reasons for seeking therapy. Are you looking to gain a potential diagnosis for depression or anxiety? Were you referred by your primary care provider? Or, perhaps you’re dealing with grief and going through a bad season. 

Regardless, of your unique reasons for seeking therapy take the opportunity to get clear on them. Doing so allows you to get clear on what you want and help you communicate it to your therapist. Thus, improving your results and making therapy more beneficial for you. 

Dealing with Specific Issues or Illness

However, if your circumstance is due to dealing with a specific issue such as an eating disorder, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or behavior that puts yourself or others at risk, take care to choose a therapist that works specifically with those issues. The same applies to those with a mental illness such as bipolar, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, or schizoaffective disorder. Working with a therapist that specializes in these conditions may provide a better result.

Short-Term Therapy vs. Long-Term Therapy

Furthermore, your reasons and goals for therapy will dictate how long you’ll be in therapy. If you’re dealing with situational depression, working through a career transition, or grief brought on by divorce. You may only require short-term therapy that lasts for a specific number of sessions. Or until your symptoms improve and you recover. Whichever happens first. 

On the other hand, if you’re managing a mental illness such as those I mentioned above. You may consider seeking long-term therapy. This can help you to manage your condition through behavior modification. Additionally, it can help you during acute episodes of depression, mania, or similar issues. 

Your need for short term or long term therapy will determine how much you’ll have to pay for therapy. If your insurance provides long-term care for mental health it won’t be as much of a strain on your budget. However, if you’re only allowed a set number of sessions or have to pay completely out of pocket, you may have to speak with your therapist about alternative solutions to make therapy more affordable. This might pose a financial issue if you’re working with a psychiatrist to manage a mental illness with medication.  Or if you require long-term therapy.

Lengthening the time between sessions may be a helpful option for those on a budget. And it can also be beneficial if you have a limited number of appointments covered by insurance. Additionally, seeking support groups, you can participate in may also prove helpful. Discuss with your therapist possible solutions for ensuring you receive appropriate care to maintain your mental health properly. 

researching therapists

Write Down Your Goals

In addition to knowing and understanding what it is you’re seeking to get out of therapy. It’s also beneficial to know what your goals are. If you’re dealing with depression caused by a breakup, your goal may be to learn how to grieve and cope with the loss of your partner. On the other hand, if you’re working to manage a mental illness or work through your struggles with chronic illness or infertility. Your goals may center on having someone that helps guide you through dealing with the complications you face. You may want them to help you manage what you’re going through and learn coping mechanisms to deal with the emotional and mental upset these things can cause. 

Purchase a dedicated journal to write down these goals. In this way, you can bring them with you to your first therapist appointment and discuss them. That way, everyone is on the same page. And, an appropriate treatment plan for your goals can be created. 

Write Down Your Questions, Concerns, Or Other Pertinent Info

The last and perhaps most important part of preparing for your first therapist appointment is to compile questions and concerns to discuss during your session. It’s easy to forget questions or concerns that you have during your appointment. But, writing them down in your therapy journal will help you remember them. 

In addition to writing down questions that you may have, you can also write down concerns. This will prove helpful if you have concerns regarding therapy, your condition, or a potential diagnosis. Additionally, you may also want to inquire about the necessity for psychiatric care. Whatever you need to ask, make sure to write your questions down. By doing so, you remember to talk about them. 

If there’s important information regarding your health history, past experiences, current circumstances, or current state of health, definitely write them down. You’ll want to make sure you share them with your therapist. You may believe these bits of information have little to do with therapy, but they do. They give your therapist a better picture of what’s going on to provide you better treatment, which can yield you better results. 

prepare questions for your first therapist session

Putting These Tips Into Action

Now that you have a step-by-step action plan about how you can prepare for your first therapist appointment, it’s time to put them to work. Dedicate time to determine how much therapy will cost you whether you’re provided complete coverage under your insurance provider. Or, they pay for a set number of sessions. Either way, you’ll have an idea of what to expect. And if you’ll need to plan for out of pocket expenses. 

Furthermore, if you’ll be paying out of pocket, you know that you’ll have to discuss payment upfront with your future therapist. By doing so, you can determine what’s feasible for you in advance. Additionally, you’ll choose a therapist either through your insurance, referrals, or online resources. However, it’s a good idea to come up with a solid therapist list and call them beforehand to determine who would be ideal for you. This is definitely important if you’re working to address a specific issue that may require a specialized level of expertise. 

Another important action is to identify your needs and goals for therapy. This will also help you decide which therapist to choose according to what you’re seeking to get out of therapy. Lastly, upon scheduling your appointment, compile a list of your goals, questions, concerns, and pertinent information to share with your therapist. This ensures that your needs and goals are met. And, it allows the therapist to recommend the appropriate treatment plan for you. 

While these steps can seem a little overwhelming at first, breaking them down into easy to complete tasks can help you progress towards your goal of better mental and emotional help. Good luck on your journey to a healthy mind and better quality of life! Don’t hesitate to share your experiences. Or additional tips that can help those embarking on improving their mental health in the comments below. 

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