A Psychological Interaction – What to Expect?

Psychologist Allambie

Despite common beliefs, we wish we could tell you that we are mind readers!
Psychologists are highly trained mental health practitioners that employ evidence-based practice to treat individuals and couples in a variety of circumstances.

What on earth does this mean?
Let’s compare us to your local GP -  we “prescribe” and employ therapies. These therapies have been tested and monitored on other populations throughout the world to determine their level of effectiveness. So, while your local doctor may give you medicine for your sore throat, initially psychologists will explore you and your life to understand, well, you! And just as you take medicine for a few weeks (and often need some bed rest), effective psychological therapy usually requires multiple sessions and your assistance.

So, what do you need to know about psychology?
Let’s bust some common misconceptions about psychology:

MYTH: Psychology is only for those in psychiatric care
Psychology is for everyone.

Exploring how you interact with your environment can provide you with a unique opportunity to understand how:

  • You may react to stressful periods in life

  • You approach problems as they arise

  • Your opinion of yourself may influence your actions

  • To overcome negative patterns that may arise

  • To use your strengths to navigate big changes

  • You can best achieve your goals

And for those seeking therapy for your mental health - you aren’t alone! In 2014 – 2015 the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 4.0 MILLION people reported having a psychological or behavioural concerns – that’s nearly 1 in 5 Australians.

MYTH: Psychologists just sit there listening to you
Whilst being a good listener is a vital role of a psychologist, most therapy involves effective listening alongside you and your psychologist working together to set goals for what YOU want to achieve; it is a collaborative interaction.

While the psychologist is an expert on employing therapies, you are the expert on you! You and your psychologist use the therapeutic plan as a framework to engage in conversations, explore hypothetical (or real) scenarios and problem solve. Therapy is a dynamic, engaging experience that is consistently adapting to you.

MYTH: Everyone gets the same therapy
There is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ -  every individual is unique and constantly changing. Whilst your therapy is guided by evidence-based treatments, it is also personalised to you and your goals – no two individuals will ever receive exactly the same session.

To provide the best care, we need to understand your personality, attitudes, values, social support and resources to form a treatment plan, and thus a therapy, that suits you best. From there, therapy is dynamic and ever-changing to allow adaptations to new information that may arise or new insights you may have.

What to expect in your first session?
A couple of questions! Human’s don’t exist in isolation – there are thousands of factors that influence who we are.

Psychologists use a model called the Bio-Psycho-Social model to put these factors into a simpler framework made up of 3 domains – biological, psychological and social. We need to understand how any medical needs may impact your body and your brain; what your thoughts, feelings and attitudes are, and finally, what your social world looks like!  It’s easier to see it in a diagram:

Psychologist Balgowlah

Further, you should expect to explore the reasons for coming for psychological therapy – this will be different for everyone. You may have a goal or problem you wish to address, or you may just wish to understand yourself better.

Most importantly, you should expect to feel safe, accepted, respected and comfortable with your psychologist.

It’s important to remember that psychological therapy is not a one-session fix-all. Just like taking medicine, Psychological therapy is a process that takes time and when it is employed effectively, in association with your help and effort, it is an effective and worthwhile tool for addressing your goals.