Counseling Psychologist
Mental Health and Wellness

What to Expect On Your First Mental Health Consultation

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Dismas Ochieng’, Counseling Psychologist at Amani Counseling and Training Centre

Perhaps you have been contemplating a visit to the hospital for a mental health checkup but you’re afraid. Will they declare me ‘mad’? Will I be put on medication? Will I be admitted to the psychiatric ward?

You are not alone. A 2004 study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found thatthere was a gap in mental health treatment because of delaying the first mental health consultation.

Described as the treatment gap, it represents the absolute difference between the true prevalence of a disorder and the treated portion of individuals affected by the disorder. Alternatively, it may be expressed as the percentage of individuals who require care but do not receive treatment (WHO).

Some of the reasons given in the study for the delayed consultation are failing to seek help because the problem is not acknowledged, perceiving that treatment is not effective, believing that the problem will go away by itself and desiring to deal with the problem without outside help.

Counseling psychologist Dismas Ochieng’ of Amani Counseling and Training Centre Kisumu, ascertains there is no need to dread a mental health appointment. He blames a general lack of awareness on counseling for the delayed consultation.

“Many people think counseling means giving advice. Traditionally, counselors in the community are older individuals thought to give good advice but are not trained in psychological counseling giving rise to misconceptions,” he explains.

Counseling psychologist’s he explains, help people with physical, emotional and mental health issues improve their sense of well-being, alleviate feelings of distress and resolve crises.

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“Although most of our patients are referred to us through human resource departments or hospital referrals, we do have walk-in patients and the procedure for the first consultation is the same,” he says.

On your first visit to the clinic, you will be exposed to the following procedures: filling in an intake form asking for basic information such as age, marital status, educational background and medical history, assessment using information given in the form, diagnosis and finally an appropriate treatment plan.

“We encounter two kinds of patients; those convinced they know their problem and those who have no clue. The information given in the intake form helps me to weed out potential problem areas,” he says.

Mr. Ochieng, a practicing psychologist for the past ten years, describes a patient who once came in complaining of loss of appetite, disturbed sleep, restlessness and psychosomatic pain in the last six months.

She was referred to him after a visit to the physician left her with more questions than answers.

“Indicating in the form she was married, I asked about marital life and she immediately broke down. Her husband had abandoned the family three months ago and since then she had been worried about the future of her family,” he reveals.

Heexplains, insight into her marital woes gives an indication that her physicalsymptoms are a manifestation of psychological and emotional disturbances. This allowed him to come up with a diagnosis which in her case was depression.

After a clear diagnosis, he explained the connection between the stress from her marital woes and the disturbances she was experiencing. This he says was important to help the patient understand the dynamics of depression in her daily life.

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“I recommended weekly therapy sessions but also referred her to a psychiatrist forfurther testing. Often, I will work together with a psychiatrist going back and forth to ensure the patient gets the best treatment available,” explains Mr.Ochieng’.

He reiterates that not everyone who walks into his office is mentally ill. Perhaps an individual is going through a rough patch in life and may not be equipped with the necessary skills, they can also seek counseling.

“Whatever mode of treatment you are placed on be it therapy or prescription drugs, all are designed to help you. Don’t feel ashamed or allow societal stigma to deter you from seeking professional help,” he says.

He also adds that there is an assurance of confidentiality on all matters discussed during the counseling sessions. Although, this rule can be broken if what is discussed could harm another person then he would have to involve the relevant authorities.

So what can be done to encourage more people seek for the help they need?

“We should have a multidisciplinary approach to health in general just as it is in HIV treatment where counseling is mandatory. If it can be engrained in primary care, we would be able to screen and help a lot of people who lack awareness and may be suffering,” he concludes.

3 thoughts on “What to Expect On Your First Mental Health Consultation

  1. I am so afraid of going to seek help. I have suspected that I have anxiety issues but I am not also sure if I am also physically sick. I fear I might find out the worst. Sometimes my heart beats fast at night and I am unable to sleep. Other times I feel like I am losing my breathe and pains all over my body. I feel so low.

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