Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Mental Health: What you can expect at a therapy appointment

Image of Richardson talking Army Sgt. Claude Richardson, an Army Reservist and suicide prevention instructor with the 358th Military Police Company, talks about his experience as an instructor during a 2018 video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program. (Photo by Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret.)

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Fever, sore throat, and chills: Typically, these are signs that it’s time to visit your doctor, and you usually know what to expect. The nurse might weigh you, check your blood pressure, and take your temperature. The doc will arrive, ask what’s bothering you, take a look, maybe prescribe some medicine, and send you on your way.

However, when it comes to your mental health, it can be hard to decide when it’s time to make an appointment and even harder to know what to expect when you get there. That fear of the unfamiliar and unknown can give you pause in going to see a therapist, but the good news is a little knowledge can feel like a lot of power.

You don’t have to wait until you’re in crisis to see a mental health professional. Therapists are ready and trained to assist with issues such as grief over a loss, strain in your relationships, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other issues. Or you might even need help with improving health behaviors such as quitting smoking or losing weight.

Similar to your physical health, it’s also important to catch and address psychological struggles early before things get worse or your symptoms start to impact your day-to-day functioning. And just like your annual physical, you might want to schedule regular checkups with your care provider to make sure you’re engaged in preventive maintenance—even if things seem just fine.

For starters, there likely will be some paperwork and questionnaires about how you’ve been feeling lately and any symptoms or problems you’re experiencing. During the first meeting, she or he will ask a lot of questions and get to know you. You also can ask questions to learn more about his or her approach and decide if it’s a good fit.

The first meeting usually takes about 60–90 minutes and, despite common misconceptions, rarely involves lying on a couch or talking about your childhood. Your therapist will ask questions that focus more on your specific problem to help understand what’s contributing to it and what your goals are for improvement.

It can be hard to open up to a stranger at first. Still, being open and honest, will help you get the most out of your visit. Your therapist is on your side and serious about maintaining your privacy as well. Mental health professionals are held to strict confidentiality guidelines, and it’s extremely rare that speaking with one will impact your security clearance.

Once there is a shared understanding of what your goals are and what you want to achieve, you also might discuss what stood between you and those goals in the past. Finally, you and your therapist will talk through your treatment plan. You’ll work together to build up your tool box, so you have the skills you need to excel when you reach your destination. Keep in mind many of the gains you make while working with a mental health professional happen outside of the therapy room, so you must be willing to put in the hard work. It’s also common for your therapist to assign “homework,” so it’s essential to practice what you’re learning between sessions.

Your therapist’s goal is to ensure you’re safe and help you reach your goals, improve your functioning and performance, and build resilience and strength to manage your current problem and any others you might face in the future. With this in mind, therapy isn’t intended to last forever. Once you’re equipped with the essential skills you need to thrive, sessions might become less frequent, and treatment will end while you still continue the work on your own.

Common barriers can make it hard to take action toward addressing your mental health. Working with a psychologist or other behavioral health provider can help you master the skills you need to manage many types of life challenges in a safe, confidential setting. Use the following resources to learn more and help locate a therapist:

You also may be interested in...

Navy Spouse Seeks Mental Health Care through the MHS

Article
9/15/2021
Military personnel in front of a helicopter

Army public affairs officer deals with mental health crisis.

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Toolkit

Ask the Doc: How Do I Fight the Long Deployment Blues?

Article
9/7/2021
Military personnel looking at a computer

Doc talks to Navy Lt. Chad Haan, staff chaplain at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia, about ways to prevent a “downward spiral” while on deployment.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Social Fitness | Ask The Doc

TRICARE has Resources for Those Struggling with Events in Afghanistan

Article
8/25/2021
A soldier looks out over a valley in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan while on patrol.

Departure of U.S. forces from Afghanistan stirred emotions from many people.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Health Center of Excellence

Need to Talk? We're Here For You

Infographic
8/17/2021
Graphic that outlines MHS's mental health resources

The Military Health System offers many mental health resources. Remember, you are not alone.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Mental Health Toolkit | Talking About Afghanistan

Why Simone Biles’ Mental Health Struggle Matters for Military Troops

Article
8/3/2021
Gymnasts posing for a picture

The Simone Biles story at the Olympics is a teachable moment for service members and their mental wellbeing, commanders say.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental

DHA releases App to Support Service Member Recovery

Article
7/26/2021
Infographic for the Antidepressant Adherence app

To ensure that military beneficiaries receive the support they need to continue on their mental wellness journey, the Antidepressant Adherence app supports those taking medication

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Depression | Technology

PTSD: Seeking out mental health care is the first step to wellness

Article
6/28/2021
A picture of hands folded together

PTSD: What it is and treatments that can help

Recommended Content:

PTSD Awareness Month | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Clinical Social Worker Provides Mental-Health Support on Remote Base

Article
6/25/2021
Military personnel posing for a picture

Social worker on loan to NAWS China Lake provides mental health care to benefit the whole person.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Mental Health Toolkit

PTSD: Help is Available

Video
6/24/2021
PTSD Video Infographic

PTSD can happen to anyone. The Military Health System can help you get diagnosed and provide you with evidence-based treatment so you can get your life back. If you're struggling with PTSD, reach out to your local military hospital or clinic and make an appointment today. Learn more at health.mil/ptsd.

Recommended Content:

June Toolkit | PTSD Awareness Month | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

4 Facts About PTSD

Video
6/23/2021

Learn about PTSD symptoms, the benefits of seeking care and get connected to confidential, 24/7 resources.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Real Warriors Campaign

Avoiding Substance Misuse as a Coping Mechanism

Video
6/23/2021

Military life is rewarding, yet often stressful. Learn five options to help you find healthy ways to cope with stress.

Recommended Content:

Substance Abuse | Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

Coping with Flashbacks Between Appointments

Video
6/23/2021

Flashbacks can sometimes occur during treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. Follow these tips to help cope with flashbacks between appointments with a health care provider.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Real Warriors Campaign

Get Ready for Your First Appointment

Video
6/23/2021

When you meet with a health care provider for the first time, it’s important to be honest about your concerns to make the best treatment plan for you. Learn tips to help you get ready.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Real Warriors Campaign

Know the Signs: Preventing Prescription Misuse

Video
6/23/2021

Prescription drug misuse can lead to challenges staying psychologically and physically fit. Learn the warning signs of prescription drug misuse to stay mission ready.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Substance Abuse | Real Warriors Campaign

Understanding and Coping with Natural and Human-made Disasters

Video
6/23/2021

Disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, and peacetime terrorist attacks, can negatively impact your psychological health. Learn how to manage your stress reactions.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Disaster Prep Toolkit | Real Warriors Campaign
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 10

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.