How to Set up the First Appointment with a Therapist or Psychiatrist

Maybe I got ahead of myself last week when I wrote about talking to your family about your depression or maybe that was your first step as well. For me, I talked with friends first because I was closer in proximity to them and they seemed to understand. After all, I was working in a mental health clinic when I realized I needed help. Regardless of what order you do it in, one of your steps in learning to live with and manage your depression is going to be setting up the first appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist.

For a lot of people, this is a scary step. For me, setting up an appointment with any doctor, especially for the first time, is scary. I’ll give you some tips on how to set up an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist and a few resources for finding the right provider. Then, my next post about depression will be about how to talk to your doctor about your depression.

Check with your Insurance

If you have insurance, you will want to check with your provider on how to go about finding a doctor or therapist who is covered. You will also want to know what your benefits are for mental health or behavioral health services. It is important that if you call your insurance that you specify mental health or behavioral health services because there is often a third party provider for that coverage or a special department that knows your benefits better and can help guide you through picking the right provider. You might even have a separate toll-free number to call to check these benefits. Check the back of your card or your member’s booklet for that information.

Find a Provider

Finding a good psychiatrist and/or therapist is very important. Once you have a list of covered providers from your insurance, you might want to ask around your friends and family to find out if anyone has any particular experience with any of the providers. When we moved to Palestine from Austin, I had a limited number of providers and none of my friends or family had experience so I had to just pick one and go with him. It turned out well for me, but I knew that I had others to choose from if something didn’t click during our first session. You might also check with your primary care physician for recommendations from your insurance list. Often, physicians know each other and are familiar with their styles and would know who you would do well with for this treatment. If all else fails, check out www.psychologytoday.com, www.therapistfinder.com, and www.goodtherapy.org or just do a search for providers in your area.

Make the First Appointment

Making that call for the first appointment is probably the hardest part for me. I don’t like to talk on the phone and I especially don’t want to have a crying meltdown when I’m on the phone with someone. Be ready to answer questions about your insurance and be ready to answer the question “what are you coming in for?”. You’ll want to first ask if the provider is taking new patients and how far out the first appointment will be before you are seen. You’ll want to ask if there is anything you need to do for your insurance to cover the visit (although you may already know the answer to that from step 1). You’ll want to make the appointment at a time when you are available, have child care, can take off work if needed, and you may even consider taking the rest of the day off work for your first appointment. I know, for me, my very first appointment with a therapist was emotionally taxing and if I hadn’t already been working in a mental health clinic, I would have wished I had the day off. I cried off and on for the rest of that day.

Now that you have your appointment, you will need to be prepared for that first appointment and most likely, you will have plenty of time as mental health providers stay booked up. Next week I’ll talk about how to talk to your doctor about your depression and how to prepare for that first appointment.

In the meantime, congratulations on taking the first steps to feeling better with depression. You are going to love the new you!

Do you have other tips for someone who is setting up the first appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist?

Comments

  1. June Robinson says:

    I really like that this focusing more on the logistical side of finding a mental health professional because I have not been able to learn as much about that as I’ve wanted to. I’m glad you pointed out the importance of finding a provider that is suited for you. My daughter is thinking about visiting a mental health professional, so we will need to ask around to find a reference like you suggested. Thanks for the information!

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