How to Prepare for Your First Virtual Therapy Appointment

At Valera Health, we understand that getting started with virtual therapy can feel scary—especially if you’ve never done therapy before. But our therapists and dedicated telemental healthcare team are here to help you each step of the way. 

Making the most out of each therapy session plays a key role in your healing process, which is why we’ve put together this guide all about what you need to know and do to have a successful online therapy journey. Read on to learn more.

 

What To Do Before Your First Session

Before you meet with your therapist for your first scheduled session, there’s a few things you’ll want to take care of. First, you’ll want to submit all required paperwork, which will likely include consent forms and submitting your insurance information. 

To make the most of your first session, we also recommend providing information to your therapist about your medical history. This may include sharing any previous mental health diagnoses, as well as any psychiatric medications you are currently taking. 

To prevent technical difficulties during your first session, make sure you have reliable internet as well as test your camera and microphone in advance. Whether you’ll be meeting with your therapist on your phone, computer or tablet, make sure to sit down and fire up your device at least five to ten minutes before your session. 

Being in a comfortable, quiet environment for your therapy appointment will help you have a successful and rewarding session with your therapist. This means meeting with your therapist at home, not in public. Have a notepad and pen within arms reach during the session so you can jot down notes or questions for your therapist. 

To avoid interruptions, let your roommates/household members know what time and day you have your appointment in advance. If you have thin walls, consider investing in a white noise sound machine so others can’t overhear you during your session.

 

Questions to Ask Your Therapist

If this is your first time in therapy, you might be unsure what to expect. That’s why it’s a great idea to come up with a list of questions for your therapist before your first appointment. This will not only help you get to know your therapist better, but also help you understand the therapeutic process better.

Here are some ideas of questions to ask to get you started:

  1. How would you describe your approach as a therapist?
  2. What is your experience with treating my condition?
  3. What type of therapy do you recommend for my condition? Can you tell me more about how this type of therapy works?
  4. How long will therapy last?
  5. Will you take a more directive, or less directive role in our sessions?
  6. What is your availability like if I need to talk to you or ask questions outside of scheduled therapy sessions?
  7. How do you prefer to be communicated with outside of therapy sessions?
  8. How do you handle emergencies? What’s the best way for me to reach out to you if I have an emergency?

 

Treatment Goals

Your first therapy session will be centered around the intake process, which is the foundation to developing a treatment plan with your therapist. However, it may take you a couple of sessions to develop a full treatment plan with your therapist.

While your therapist will work with you to come up with a solid treatment plan, it can be helpful to think about your treatment goals before your first session. Ask yourself “What is driving me to therapy in the first place?” Reflect on any distressing thoughts or feelings, or other symptoms you’ve been experiencing lately, such as feelings of sadness, increased anxiety, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, etc. Think about what areas of your life you want to improve.  Write down the answers in a journal so you can have notes ready to discuss with your provider. Be as thorough as possible when discussing this with your therapist. From there, they will help you come up with actionable steps you can take inside and outside of therapy to achieve your goals. 

 

Additional Tips

  • Relax before therapy and take time for self-care
    • While the thought of starting therapy can be nerve racking, your therapist is there to help you. Carve out time to unwind and tend to your needs before and after each therapy session.
  • Ask clarifying questions if you’re confused about anything your therapist says.
    • Therapy is a learning process and your therapist is here to help you learn.
  • Therapy is an ongoing process, inside and outside of each session. 
    • It’s important for your growth and healing to practice what you learn in therapy outside of your regular therapy sessions. 
    • To make the most of your experience, do any recommended exercises your therapist gives you in between sessions.
    • Take note of how you’re feeling each day by journaling.
      • Write down stressors and things that come up between each session to discuss with your therapist. 

Ready to get started? Our diverse team of compassionate therapists are highly trained in providing virtual therapy services to treat a wide-array of symptoms and mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety and Serious Mental Illnesses (SMI) such as bipolar I & II, personality disorders, schizophrenia and more. 

To learn more, request a free consultation with a designated health connector or visit valerahealth.com. 

More than Just the Holiday Blues: Winter Depression, Stress & SAD

 

Holidays are known for being a joyful time of celebration and winter cheer. But for some, this isn’t the case. If you’re feeling extra stressed or sad during the holidays, you aren’t the only one. In fact, late fall and winter have some of the highest rates of depression—thanks to stress, loneliness and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

 

What is SAD?

While feeling down due to shorter days and less daylight in the fall and winter can be common, Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs in cases where “…these mood changes are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks and handles daily activities,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. 

SAD is considered to be a type of depression characterized by a recurring seasonal pattern, with depression symptoms lasting four to five months out of the year. People with major depression disorder, bipolar disorder type I and bipolar disorder type II are more likely to experience SAD.

Most of the symptoms of SAD are the same symptoms that occur in major depression, including:

  • Feeling depressed most days
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies you once enjoyed
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Low energy levels or fatigue
  • Sleep issues
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling worthless
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

 

Additional seasonal specific symptoms of SAD include:

  • Oversleeping (a.k.a. hypersomnia)
  • An increased craving for carbohydrates
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Social withdrawal

 

For more information about SAD, as well as tips for treating SAD, click here.

 

 

What causes the “Holiday Blues”?

Other causes of the “holiday blues” a.k.a. increased stress and/or sadness during the holidays may include:

  • Increased financial stress
  • Family trauma
  • Social isolation
  • Grief
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Not being able to be with loved ones (family or friends) over the holidays
  • Over-commercialization of the holidays

 

Coping with the “Holiday Blues”

Check out this infographic from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is full of great tips for combating the holiday blues.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or in need of some extra support this holiday season, consider therapy. Valera Health offers convenient telemental health services including therapy and psychiatry services. Visit www.valerahealth.com or click here to learn more and schedule your free initial consultation with a designated Health Connector.