For Therapy Patients, Their Families, and Supportive Friends: You need to be prepared for every step of therapy, from finding a therapist, to the first few visits, to the very last session, and beyond. Become an educated advocate for your children (or yourself) and you will get more effective treatment.
During your first or second psychotherapy session, your therapist will ask you plenty of questions (and write down all your answers) in order to get to know as much as possible about you. The more questions he asks, the more he learns and the better he’ll be able to help you address any problems you’re having. The group of questions he’ll ask when he first gets to know you are known as the Evaluation or the Biopsychosocial History.
Biopsychosocial History/Evaluation Checklist
When your therapist does your evaluation, make sure that he asks you about the following life-areas (he may even ask you about more, but these are the basics):
- 1. Identifying data/demographic data—the basics(social security number, date of birth, sex, race, emergency contact information, living situation);
- 2. Alcohol and drug history—(including over-the-counter and prescription medications, herbal or nutritional remedies, and illegal drugs and alcohol; how often you use them; age first used; date last used; progression of use; withdrawal symptoms; history of treatment programs/hospitalizations; symptoms and complications of alcohol and drug history); yes, even if you are visiting a therapist for mental health problems or other worries, he/she still needs to know this information. Don’t be afraid to tell the truth—sometimes alcohol and drugs can cause or even hide problems;
- 3. Mental health history (including medication history, allergies to medications, history of treatment programs/hospitalizations, and symptoms and complications of that history, including harm to self or others);
- 4. Medical history (including medication history and compliance, allergies to medications, hospitalizations, chronic and/or life-threatening illnesses, and symptoms and past and current complications of that history). The health of your body can influence your emotional wellbeing, and vice versa;
- 5. Other topics (sexual history, educational history, vocational history, financial history, legal history, social history, family/significant other, gambling history, nicotine history, eating disorders, spirituality, leisure, military history);
- 6. Reason for seeking treatment—it might be hard to explain, but once you open up about what’s bothering you (or your child), the therapist will be able to focus on helping you make improvements in your life.
- 7. Questions about the stages of your life (childhood, adolescence, geriatric, etc., as needed).
Adapted from Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On (Without Wasting Time or Money), by Richard and C.R. Zwolinski, HCI Books. This and other useful checklists, charts, and questionnaires are included in the book along with easy-to-understand tips and pointers, real-life patient interviews, and more. It is available in most bookstores and in many public libraries.