Preparing for Psychotherapy

I feel that people do not talk enough about how to prepare for psychotherapy. This post addresses similarities and differences between visiting a medical doctor and a mental health provider. I also provide suggestions on how to prepare for psychotherapy.

Many people are familiar with preparing for and visiting a medical doctor. You call them up, make the appointment, show up and get your vitals checked, the medical doctor talks to you about your concerns, and you might receive a prescription to address the concern or get recommended a specific treatment regimen. Boom, boom, and then you leave. Coming into the therapy experience has both similarities and differences with visiting a medical doctor. The things that are similar are that you call and make the appointment, talk about your concerns, and discuss goals and treatment options. The therapy experience differs, however, in many ways. In therapy, there is more of focus on your total human experience, meaning a focus on your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and aspects of spiritual well being (if spirituality is a part of how you understand life). Therapists listen not only to your words, but also your manner of speaking, how you communicate, and the impact of your experiences on your overall well-being. There may not be a specific prescription that is written at the end of your first session together, but as you continue to work with a therapist, you may develop feasible goals for change, growth, and healing. 

So, how do you prepare for this experience? Breathe. Be fierce and courageous. Breathe. Be willing to be feel uncomfortable. Be prepared to discuss who you are, your relationships and other experiences in your life. Be prepared to ask questions as well. When choosing to work with a therapist, you may also want to pay attention to the following questions:

  1. Do I feel comfortable with this person? 
  2. Does this person listen well to my concerns and history? 
  3. Does this person seem to “get me?” 
  4. Do I believe in how they propose to work with me? 
  5. Does the person have the professional experience and expertise to approach my concerns?

For any psychologist in California, you can verify their license and disciplinary history at