Your first mental health appointment: What to expect

Your first mental health appointment: What to expect

Our psychiatrists explain what to expect for your first mental health appointment so you can feel more comfortable about your first visit.

Reviewed by:
Austin Lin, MD
View bio
September 22, 2023
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Key takeaways

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.

We’ll explain who we are and collaborate on expectations.

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.

Why did you come in?

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.

What is your typical day like?

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?

What’s your medical history?

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.

How can we make you feel safe?

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.

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What can we do for you?

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.

Goals and treatment planning

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.

About Talkiatry

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.

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Frequently asked questions

Does Talkiatry take my insurance?

We're in network with major insurers, including:

  • Aetna
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Cigna
  • Humana
  • Medicare
  • Oscar
  • United Healthcare
  • Optum
  • Compsych

Even if your insurer isn't on the list, we might still accept it. Use the insurance eligibility checker in our online assessment to learn more.

Can I get an estimate of my visit cost?

The best way to get a detailed estimate of your cost is to contact your insurance company directly, since your cost will depend on the details of your insurance.  

For some, it’s just a co-pay. If you have an unmet deductible it could be more.  

Call the number on your insurance card and ask about your plan’s coverage for outpatient psychiatric services.

What kind of treatment does Talkiatry provide?

At Talkiatry, we specialize in psychiatry, meaning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Your psychiatrist will meet with you virtually on a schedule you set together, devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and work with you to adjust your plan as you meet your goals.

If your treatment plan includes medication, your psychiatrist will prescribe and manage it. If needed, your psychiatrist can also refer you to a Talkiatry therapist.

What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

Other signs that you should see a psychiatrist include:  

  • Your primary care doctor or another doctor thinks you may benefit from the services of a psychiatrist and provides a referral    
  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

How does Talkiatry compare to face-to-face treatment?

For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

Who can prescribe medication?

All our psychiatrists (and all psychiatrists in general) are medical doctors with additional training in mental health. They can prescribe any medication they think can help their patients. In order to find out which medications might be appropriate, they need to conduct a full evaluation. At Talkiatry, first visits are generally scheduled for 60 minutes or more to give your psychiatrist time to learn about you, work on a treatment plan, and discuss any medications that might be included.

Austin Lin, MD

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.

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