Back to Top Skip to main content

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...

Total Force Fitness Reintroduction

DHA Seal

The Military Health System is reintroducing Total Force Fitness. The Total Force Fitness concept focuses on a service member’s entire health throughout their career, connecting eight dimensions of fitness to optimize health, performance, and readiness holistically.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Environmental Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Spiritual Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Social Fitness | Financial Fitness | Health Tools

Countering seasonal depression during the COVID-19 pandemic

Man with his head in his hands, sitting in front of a Christmas tree

SAD, or sometimes called seasonal depression, is a subtype of a major depressive disorder.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Psychological Fitness | Mental Health Care | Depression | Suicide Prevention

Seeking help from friends and family vital for mental health

Image of three people on a zoom call

Reaching out for help with your mental health is not a sign of weakness, according to Tim Hoyt.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Mental Health Care | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Suicide Prevention

‘I am Navy Medicine’ – helping another in need - Hospitalman Grace Pridmore of NMRTC Bremerton

Corpsman conviction of care, compassion and competence…Hospitalman Grace Pridmore, from Kellyville, Okla., assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton Detachment Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS), was acknowledged for her selfless effort by Capt. Shannon J. Johnson, NMRTC Bremerton commanding officer, for identifying another Sailor at risk and taking quick action to help get the Sailor to the appropriate level of care, very possibly saving a life (official Navy photo by Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton public affairs officer).

It takes more than just awareness to respond to someone showing signs of distress.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Health Care | Psychological Fitness | Heroes Behind the Mask

Zama Middle High School counselor can help with COVID-19 stress, more

Woman in red dress sitting on chair and posing for the camera

Miller wants students and parents to know she is available for a wide variety of issues, including those related to COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Health Care | Psychological Fitness

Air Force mental health team provides for deployed troops

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nathan Davis, conducts a weekly Disaster Mental Health battlefield circulation walk around Quarantine Town.

The Disaster Mental Health team helps combat the stressors of the novel coronavirus and improves the overall well-being of service members of Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Psychological Fitness | Coronavirus

Camp Pendleton group therapy provides a cornerstone for mental wellness

Image of Ian Beard

Mental health is an essential component of overall wellness.

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Psychological Fitness | Coronavirus

'Home sweet home' leaves a sour taste for some quarantine-weary

Family playing board game

Mental health professionals offer tips on managing during uncertain times

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Health Care | Psychological Fitness

Military chaplains emphasize spiritual health during COVID-19 pandemic

Soldier in front of military sculpture

In a time of great fear, spiritual health remains an important domain of Total Force Fitness.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Health Care | Psychological Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Coping with the stress of social distancing

Image of person alone in room

How to navigate the COVID-19 outbreak

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Health Care | Psychological Fitness

Addressing emotional responses to threat of Coronavirus

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kathleen A. Myhre, 446th Airman and Family Readiness Center noncommissioned officer in charge, meditates outside the 446th Airlift Wing Headquarters building on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Feb. 12, 2020. Myhre traveled to India in 2016 to study to become an internationally-certified yoga instructor. She now shares her holistic training with Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 446th AW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mary A. Andom)

Even if you’re feeling healthy, medical professionals recommend staying home and limiting social contact as much as possible

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Physical Fitness | Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

DHA PM 6025-01: Primary Care Behavioral Health (PCBH) Standards


This Defense Health Agency-Procedures Manual (DHA-PM), based on the authority of References (a) and (b), and in accordance with the guidance of References (c) through (i), establishes the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) procedures to establish required standards for: a. Military Medical Treatment Facilities (MTFs) and primary care clinics for adult, child and adolescent, health behavior, behavioral medicine, and behavioral health services in primary care. b. Behavioral Health Consultants (BHCs). c. Behavioral Health Care Facilitators (BHCFs). d. External Behavioral Health Consultants (EBHCs). e. Primary Care Clinic Leaders.

Shining light on those wintertime blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects millions of Americans every year and is believed to be more common in parts of the country where the sunshine is less prevalent, such as here. SAD symptoms can include a down mood, loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyable, change in appetite, sleep patterns, fatigue and loss of energy. (Navy photo by Douglas Stutz)

About seven percent of people experience a depressive episode every year

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Sleep

Mental Health Professionals

Congressional Testimony

S. 3129, SAC Report for FY 2019, 115-290, Pg. 211

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Psychological Fitness

Are you sad or are you SAD?

Some individuals suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also referred to as Depressive Disorder. As the name suggests, it’s a form of depression that occurs during the seasonal change to winter. (U.S. Air Force photo by Trevor Cokley)

In the U.S., SAD is estimated to affect 10 million people

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 3

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.