What will my assessment appointment be like?

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    What will my assessment appointment be like?

    Your first contact with First Step will be with one of our booking team.  When you call, they will take some details from you and book you an assessment appointment.

    Initial assessment

    "The therapist was lovely on the phone, she listened attentively and I felt very at ease talking to her she was brilliant"

    Assessments are usually carried out over the phone within 15 working days, and one of our practitioners will contact you at the time you arranged with the booking team.  If you are unable to have a phone appointment for any reason, for example if you are hard of hearing, please let the booking team know. They can arrange a face to face appointment for you, but this may mean you wait longer to be seen.

    The assessment will be a brief outline and take approximately 30 minutes. You will be asked a range of questions to help you and your practitioner to understand your current problems and ways forward.

    We will explain a little about the service and our confidentiality policy before starting with the assessment.

    Before your assessment appointment it is important to:

    • Make sure you are in a place that is quiet and where you will be able to have a confidential conversation with the First Step Practitioner without being disturbed.
    • Complete the questionnaires you were sent – this will give us a basis to work from and begin to get an idea of the problem you want help with. It can take time away from the assessment time if you need to complete it together so filling it in before hand will help us to gather plenty of information.
    • Think about what you are hoping will be different by the end of therapy (changes you want to make or therapy goals)

    ‘Very friendly, understanding and patient with me.  I was nervous waiting for the phone call for my initial assessment but was put at ease straightaway.’
    The following are the main kinds of questions we will ask you:  

    How you are feeling?

    Are you doing anything differently as a result of how you are feeling?  For example are you avoiding going out? Are you currently off work? Are you struggling to keep on top of the housework?

    How does your problem affect you physically? For example are you struggling to sleep? Have you lost your appetite? Do you experience panic attacks?

    How has your thinking changed?  For example are you worrying a lot? Are you thinking negatively?

    Do you feel that you are at risk of harming yourself or ending your life? We ask everyone about their safety, and the safety of others i.e. children or adults at risk. We routinely ask about your home situation and any children you have and if any other professionals or services are involved e.g. social services.

    Have you had any previous therapy or treatment with First Step or another mental health service e.g. Community Mental Health Team, Crisis Service, Psychologist or Drug and Alcohol Service? Was it helpful? Are you currently seeing a professional from another mental health service?     

    Are you on any medication for depression or anxiety? If so, what is it, what dose, how long have you been on it, and has it made a difference?

    Do you have any disabilities or long term medical conditions e.g. diabetes, heart condition etc. which might impact on your mental health or that we may need to take into consideration when arranging an appointment for you?

    Do you use any drugs or alcohol? If so, how much?  Do you smoke?

    Any questions that you would like answered

    Following your assessment

    You and the practitioner will agree on the best treatment for the problem you are struggling with. You will then be allocated to a practitioner in your area for treatment.  We aim to see you as soon as possible following the initial assessment, but waiting times to start treatment may vary.

    If First Step is not the best service to meet your needs we will discuss the most appropriate service to help you and can make a referral for you.

    An assessment summary letter will be sent to you, and copied to your GP (and the team who referred you to First Step if appropriate). This will outline briefly the problem you are struggling with at the moment and a brief plan of the therapy that will be helpful.

    Please be aware that if you have specific needs for appointments, for example, only in certain locations or at certain times of the day, you may wait longer for a suitable appointment to become available.

    If you feel that your mood is deteriorating, please contact your GP. The Cumbria Health On Call team (CHOC) are also available out of hours on 111. The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123.