You might have a variety of reasons for making your first mental health appointment—whether it’s panic attacks that you can’t get under control or postpartum depression that keeps you from getting out of bed in the morning. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to get help. If you’ve never seen a mental health professional, the idea of your first mental health appointment might be overwhelming. Here, we’ll try to help you understand what to expect so you can feel more comfortable about your first visit.
Every provider will have a different style, but most initial appointments will include these elements.
You need to understand the provider you’re working with since every provider will offer a different experience. Typically, your provider will explain a bit of their background, their availability to you, and your working relationship. There will be an opportunity here for you and your provider to develop a set of guidelines that you agree to, which will remain throughout your treatment.
We want to know why you’re here today. More specifically, what was the “last straw” that convinced you to make an appointment. Everyone has what we would consider a “baseline” level of functioning. At some time before you booked your first mental health appointment, the way you were functioning shifted to a point that was no longer tolerable. We must understand when that shift happened and (if you know) why it happened.
We want to get a sense of how you live your daily life. How often do you go out with friends? Do you have friends? Do you have family nearby? How many hours are you sleeping at night? Do you exercise? and so many more. Some people might find these questions personal and intrusive, but honestly, we want to get the best and most complete picture of you. Who better than you to paint that picture for us?
Your medical history is comprehensive, but we’ll help narrow it down. We’ll need to know about any medical problems, allergies, and medications you’ve taken. Then, if you start medication for your mental health, we can safely recommend the right medication. In addition, we’ll ask you some questions about your mental health treatment history and family history. We’ll also need to know if you have ever been hospitalized. In some cases, we might ask your permission to contact and collaborate with other providers you see.
When you go to your first mental health appointment, there is a chance that you’ll feel that safety questions don’t relate to you or your circumstances. But we as professionals know that emotional problems and stress can potentially lead to unfamiliar or even unsafe thoughts. The most important thing about these questions is that you answer them honestly. When we discuss safety, we’ll make sure that we do everything we can to help you feel safe and assist you in making a plan in case a time arises when you don’t feel safe.
This is the part where you let us know what you hope to gain from your visits with us. This information is a crucial element of your treatment. Based on this, your provider may also have you fill out some scales or questionnaires that will help us track your progress.
We will obtain all the information we need, which could take more than one session. Then, you and your provider will work together to devise a treatment plan to help you reach your goals. Your provider will offer you various concepts that can be a part of your treatment plan, including therapies and modalities that we’ll work on routinely, and possibly medications.
Providing feedback to your clinician is an integral part of the treatment process, both at your first mental health appointment and along the way. We know every patient is unique and will adapt our skills and style for your treatment to be the most successful.
Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care. Co-founded by a patient and a triple-board-certified psychiatrist, Talkiatry has over 300 doctors, 60 insurance partners, and first visits available in days. We treat patients with anxiety, depression, trauma, ADHD, and more. Get started with a short online assessment.
Talkiatry is a mental health practice, and our clinicians review everything we write. However, articles are never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may need mental health help, talk to a psychiatrist. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.
Dr. Austin Lin is a double board-certified adult and addiction psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 9 years. At the center of Dr. Lin’s clinical approach is a strong emphasis on establishing trust and using a collaborative approach to help patients develop an individualized and cohesive plan so that they are able to achieve their goals.
Dr. Lin's practice focuses on medication management. Typically, he offers this in conjunction with supportive therapy, motivational interviewing, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. Occasionally, Dr. Lin may recommend that additional therapy is needed and ask that you bring a therapist into your care team in order to provide the best outcome.
Dr. Lin received his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He went on to complete his residency in psychiatry at Harvard South Shore, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, where he served as Chief Resident and earned his 360° Professionalism award. He then had additional training in Addiction Psychiatry through his fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. After completing training, Dr. Lin has worked as an Addiction Psychiatrist and Director of Adult Services in the Trauma and Resilience Center (TRC) at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He specialized in treating patients with a history of depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use disorders.
Dr. Lin has held an academic appointment at UTHealth, and he has spent his professional career supervising and teaching medical students and psychiatry residents.