#Therapy #Depression #Counselling

There was a time in my life when all I could think was “how can I hurt myself in order for others to acknowledge that I am sick?” Those we some of my darkest moments and often, I found myself questioning the point of life altogether.

These moments helped me to acknowledge the important decision I needed to make; to ask for help or watch my life come to an abrupt end.

Choosing the former, I decided to reveal my well-kept secret and open up about my mental health. After spending almost 10 years hiding my mental illness, I was added to a never ending wait-list for psychiatric help.

Six weeks went by with no set appointment. 

I had imagined this moment in my head, thousands of times, expecting help to be both readily and immediately available. Yet, I was greeted by inadequate resources and services. As my depression deteriorated quickly, becoming an emergent situation, I watched as the healthcare system began to fail me. If it hadn’t have been for my mother’s persistence and daily calls to psychiatrists across the city, I probably would have never found myself sitting in that doctor's office.

During my first session, all I could do was cry and it wasn't a pretty stream of tears, rather pure hysteria. For the first time in my life, my mind refused to hide and I found myself far from being in control - a notion that completely terrified me.

Whenever a patient is referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist, their initial appointment is known as an "intake" appointment. This provides an opportunity to discuss personal concerns and expectations of the counseling process. The therapist performs assessments and determines the services that will assist you best. A brief history is covered, with questions regarding psychological/medical status, family history, alcohol or substance abuse, previous experience with counselling, etc.

My initial appointment was spent answering questionnaires from the DSM-5 while also discussing my symptoms. What began as an hour long appointment ended up feeling like a quick 5-minute conversation with a stranger.

At the end of the session, my doctor asked "What do you hope to achieve from therapy?"

My answer "I just want to be happy"

Afterwards, I remember walking to the car to meet my mother, where she asked quite simply “how did it go?” As if on cue, I began to hyperventilate - a symptom that is often a warning sign of my panic attacks. I was distraught, feeling completely helpless. I had expected to receive help and/or resources immediately, yet I left feeling even more confused than when I first entered.

Little did I know, my appointment represented a standard, initial intake appointment. It was completely normal, yet I was discouraged because I had entered with such high expectations. Looking back, I wish someone could have guided me through the process.

Sometimes an initial intake appointment can span over two to three sessions. In my case, this is what occurred. By the end of my second appointment, I received a treatment plan which included bi-weekly therapy appointments and a prescription for an antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication.

It is a known fact that approximately 50% of psychotherapy patients drop out of treatment after their first initial intake appointment - a statistic that is very discouraging. To ask for help is a huge accomplishment for anyone suffering from a mental illness. Yet, to think that many of those people throw in the towel after one session saddens me. Growing and improving one’s self is hard and it takes time; something we are not accustomed to in the hecticness of our day-to-day lives.

So, be patient and be gentle.

It will go slow. No one can get to know you or the life you lead in an hour long session.

Please don’t get discouraged.

Go back and try again.

Perseverance is everything. 

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