mental health therapy

How to Start Therapy: A Step-by-Step Guide

Starting therapy doesn't have to be daunting. At Nystrom & Associates, we strive to make the process as simple as possible so you can get the help you need. In this article, we’re going to delve into how to start therapy services with us, including how to schedule an appointment, find the right provider for you, and what your first therapy appointment will look like. First, let’s go over the ways you can schedule an appointment.  

How to Schedule an Appointment 

1. Call 1-844-NYSTROM  

The quickest way to get connected to our services and to start therapy sooner is to call us. Whether you know which service you want to receive or not, when you call us our staff will gather your basic demographic and insurance information to get you registered in our system. If you know what therapy service you want to receive, great. Our staff will move forward with finding the right provider for your needs.   If you don’t know which therapy service you’d like, don’t worry, we’ll walk you through the different options to see what’s right for you. Maybe it’s Outpatient Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), or Nutrition Counseling. From there, we determine your right-fit provider.  Related: What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)?

2. Request an Appointment Online 

While calling us is the fastest way to get scheduled, we do also have online options available. When you fill out the online Request an Appointment form, our coordinators will contact you, confirm your information provided and move forward with finding the right provider for you. Please note that with the online form, a call back from our staff can take 24-48 hours. Questions? Use our online LiveChat feature on our website in the bottom right corner. 

How to Find the Right Provider  

When it comes to starting therapy, finding the right provider is an important step. To find a good fit for you, our scheduling coordinators will ask you why you want to receive therapy. What are you looking to talk to a therapist about? For example, does your primary care doctor recommend that you see us for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Or have you been feeling anxious recently? A little background information will help determine which providers will be best suited to your unique situation.   Next, our scheduling coordinators will ask you if you prefer in-person services or telehealth services (via video or phone), as we offer both options at Nystrom & Associates. Then, you’ll be asked if you have a preferred gender provider. All this information will help narrow down the options for your right-fit provider that is accepting new patients.   Our scheduling coordinators will walk you through a provider that has availability for your preferred in-person or telehealth session. They will work with you to coordinate the best time for your first appointment based on your availability along with your provider’s availability. Then they will confirm the time and date of your first appointment and how your provider will contact you before the appointment.   Feel free to take a look at our providers on our site. Please note that provider availability does change frequently, sometimes daily. If you identify a particular provider online that you are interested in, call us and we’ll check to see if they have availability. If they don’t, our staff will help walk you through identifying another good fit for you.  

What Happens Before My First Appointment? 

The day after you schedule your appointment, you’ll receive an email with intake paperwork that you will need to fill out. We recommend that you fill out your paperwork before your appointment About a week out from the appointment you will receive an email reminder. You’ll also receive a text message and a phone call reminder. Plus, you’ll have the option to confirm your appointment. If you confirm in the email, you won’t get the extra phone call reminder, however, you’ll still receive a text message the day before your appointment.  

What Happens During My First Appointment? 

If it’s a telehealth appointment, your provider will call you and walk you through how to connect to your session. Typically, telehealth sessions are conducted through a secure video platform or through a phone call. Your provider will email you a link to connect to your session and call you to ensure you received the link. Otherwise, for in-person therapy appointments, you will check-in at the front desk at your preferred clinic and then meet with your provider at your scheduled time.   In your first therapy session, there are a few main goals, as highlighted below. Related: How Therapy Helps With Depression

1. Get to Know You/Diagnostic Assessment  

Your first appointment for outpatient therapy whether telehealth or in-person consists of an intake. This includes a Diagnostic Assessment (DA), where your provider will ask questions to get to know you and your history, your physical and mental health background, and any current presenting symptoms. Overall, this is your provider’s opportunity to understand your current situation and your history.  Related: Men's Mental Health: What You Need to Know

2. Establish a Diagnosis 

Then, once your provider gets to know you, they use that information from the symptoms you reported to establish a mental health diagnosis. Keep in mind that to continue outpatient therapy, you must have a DSM-V mental health diagnosis made at some point during the diagnostic assessment process, which can be established anywhere during the first 1-3 sessions. For providers, part of the intake process is establishing a clinical summary. This is a broad overview of symptoms and how you meet the criteria for a certain diagnosis. A clinical summary also includes your strengths, functioning deficits, needs and concerns, and recommendations for treatment.  Related: How Does Abuse Affect Mental Health?

3. Recommendations for Future Care  

At the end of your intake, your provider will review their recommendations for future care. For example, your provider might recommend continuing weekly sessions, or they might refer you to another program such as Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) that would be a better fit for your needs.   Either way, your provider will explain their treatment recommendations and you will leave your first appointment knowing what steps to take next. 

4. Schedule Follow Up Appointments/Referrals  

Once a DA is completed within the first three sessions, whether it’s the first session or somewhere between the first and third, then ongoing therapy continues, and you will dive into your specific treatment plan and determine your goals and intervention strategies.   Your provider and the front desk staff will help you set up future appointments and referrals if needed.  Related: 10 Tips to Make Therapy More Effective

Your Online Patient Portal  

During your session, your provider will most likely be documenting portions of the session while they are with you because they want to capture accurate information. For adults, those records will automatically stream to our patient portal, FollowMyHealth. You can register for FollowMyHealth here.   By registering and using FollowMyHealth you can enjoy the following benefits: 
  • Send and receive secure messages with your outpatient therapist or medication provider 
  • View and pay your bill online 
  • Request a prescription renewal 
  • Request, reschedule, or cancel an appointment 
  • Receive documents, such as your clinical summary or educational materials 
  • Review and get information about diagnoses 
  • Update your insurance and demographic information 
FollowMyHealth is protected using the highest level of encryption. You can rest easy knowing your information is secure. 

A Word From Nystrom & Associates  

We understand that starting therapy can be nerve-wracking, but we’re here to make the process as seamless as possible, so all you need to do is focus on your goals in therapy. Learning how to start therapy is a great start. If you'd like to make an appointment, call 1-844-NYSTROM or request an appointment online at any of our convenient locations. Stay up to date with Nystrom on Facebook and Instagram. 

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