For some people, the idea of meeting with a psychologist for the first time can be an intimidating experience. The old stereotypes about being “crazy” still persist. However, as people are facing challenges in their lives, it can be helpful to seek the services of an unbiased professional, trained in the complexities of human behaviour. Psychologists that are providing psychological treatment typically have a doctorate in clinical or counselling psychology. The nuances of various mental health diagnoses and the empirically validated treatment strategies are part of their formal education. There is a solid body of research supporting these treatment methods.
Some people may not have a psychiatric diagnosis but are struggling with managing stress, have poor self-esteem, poor communication strategies, and/or a myriad of other unique situations that are detrimental to their quality of life. A psychologist can help with teasing out the patterns, behaviours, triggers, and subconscious processes that may be maintaining the problem.
Other people may choose to meet with a psychologist simply to improve their quality of life and maximize their potential. An important investment in themselves. This is of course, one of the best investments which pays enormous dividends.
Do I need a referral from my physician?
Psychological treatment is not covered by MSP hence, a referral is not necessary for treatment. Some insurance companies cover a few treatment sessions with a Registered Psychologist under the extended treatment benefits. Once again, you do not need a referral for this. However, you need to be aware of the dollar amount allocated for psychological treatment.
Who covers the cost of psychological treatment?
You will need to check with your insurance company to see if they cover treatment with a Registered Psychologist. Many people choose to pay privately for treatment. The treatment receipts can be submitted with your taxes. You can call to check for rates, payment options, and a sliding scale.
What happens during the first session?
During the first session your psychologist and you have an opportunity to ask each other questions. You can come up with a mutually agreed upon treatment plan, individually tailored to your needs. You can also determine if this is a good fit for you. For example, on a inter-personal level you need to feel comfortable with your psychologist or you are not likely to share personal information. While this information may be embarrassing for you it may be essential in understanding your problem. Stepping outside your comfort zone is an essential part of treatment. However, the treatment strategies suggested need to feel comfortable for you.
What can I expect from treatment?
Progress in treatment requires a very active effort on your part. Your psychologist can share relevant strategies with you. If you choose not to practice them several times per week you are not likely to see results. For example, your physician may advise you to manage your diet and exercise. If you choose not to do so on a regular basis, you will not obtain any benefit from the consultation or treatment plan. Working with psychological processes that maintain behaviour is not an easy task. The old behaviours have to be unlearned before the new ones can take root. Also re-visiting some traumatic or unpleasant memories can cause people to re-experience unpleasant emotions. This process requires more courage and discipline on your part. The concept of psychological resistance will be discussed with you. The mutual goal is to foster a safe and nurturing environment which can facilitate these changes.
How many sessions does this take?
The number of treatment sessions varies from person to person and with the complexity of the problem. Once again, treatment is an active process. The duration between sessions is also mutually agreed upon. A period of time is necessary for processing experiences. Also for some people, it is helpful to stabilize themselves before they go deeper into their problem.
How confidential is the treatment?
Every effort is made to maintain your confidentiality. Written consent is obtained from you prior to making contact with family member, treatment providers, lawyers, and insurance companies if that is necessary. However, there are some limits to confidentiality. Psychological treatment records can be subpoenaed in a court of law during litigation. In other situations a psychologist has to break confidentiality if:
You are likely to harm yourself or others
You are abusing a child, an elderly, or other vulnerable person
You are engaging in reckless behaviour that is putting others at risk such as driving while impaired and so on.
Other unique situations may present themselves mostly involving minors and vulnerable adults. These will be discussed with you on a situation by situation basis. Your referral source or insurance company that is paying for treatment may request a treatment report. If this is the case the additional limits of confidentiality will be discussed further with you.