What to Ask a Therapist Before Your First Session
So let’s say that you’ve now found a therapist that you’re pretty sure you want to work with. That’s great! It’s the first step, and it’s a big one. But there are additional questions that may be helpful to ask during a pre-appointment consultation or a first appointment. These can help you maximize your experience and make sure you’re getting a quality counselor. These questions are certainly not everything to find out when looking for a therapist. That’s what my post How to Find the Right Therapist for You is for!
Cost of Sessions and Insurance Options
It may sound obvious, but many clients show up to a therapy session having no idea what it’s going to cost or how to pay for it. A lot of this stems from the desire not to be awkward or rude… but it’s totally okay to ask the therapist what they charge and talk these details with them. It’s part of the business and they’re used to it. And ask about your insurance! If your therapist can work with your insurance, it can save you a lot of money.
Their Theoretical Orientation
There are about as many ways to "do" therapy as there are therapists in this world, and not all of them are going to make sense with your values or give you the results you're looking for.
Some people are not interested in their therapist's style, and would rather leave it up to the therapist's expertise, and that's fine. But others are curious to know their therapist's techniques.
If you're one of those people who is curious about techniques, ask your therapist! They should be able to explain the main techniques they use pretty easily. If what they tell you really seems to resonate with you (or not!), it can help you determine if you want to work with them.
They are a few styles of counseling that are completely faith-based (Nouthetic counseling from the Christian perspective, for example), but most of the time, faith-based therapists use psychological techniques in addition to wisdom from their faith. If you want to learn how to grow through the lens of a particular faith, definitely look for this and ask the therapist about it! It can also be helpful to know right off the bat if your therapist is working from a spiritual perspective if that’s NOT what you want.
Office Location and Scheduling Flexibility
Where is their office? Is it going to be convenient for you? Do they see clients online? If it matters to you, check out the office space itself by asking for an in-person consultation if possible. Feeling comfortable in the physical therapy office can definitely have a positive impact.
It’s also good to ask about the therapist’s scheduling policy. Most therapist charge for no-shows and last minute cancellations. You want to know this! While these are often very fair policies, it’s good to be informed that you’ll be charged before you make scheduling decisions. It’s also good to talk about vacations. If your therapist goes on vacation for a couple weeks, what do you do? Are they available at all during that time (the self care advocate in me says hopefully not!)? Do they connect you to another therapist briefly? Do they offer crisis resources just in case? These types of policies can greatly vary, so it’s good to discuss your needs.
Some therapy offices are not just the therapist. Perhaps there’s a massage therapist, a Reiki practitioner, a psychiatrist, or a naturopath in the same building. Perhaps they even offer discounts for clients of their partners. Maybe it’s just convenient for you to schedule a therapy appointment and massage appointment in the same night. The possiblities are endless! But you won’t know if you don’t ask!
Many therapists go beyond their professional license to gain experience in specialized areas, such as trauma, addictions, eating disorders, couples, families, professional development, mind body techniques, animal-assisted services, depression, anxiety, and many others.
Many therapists also specialize in certain age groups, so it’s good to know if your potential therapist specializes in depression (yay!) but older adults (shoot I’m 20). Ideally, it’s great to work with a therapist who specializes in both your age group and your primary concern. I will say that age groups are often fairly simple; plenty of therapists work with the entire spectrum, or they may work just with adults or just kids. But of course both of those are pretty wide ranges.
Most therapists are also quite competent with the most common concerns that come up in therapy, such as depression, anxiety, relationships, and personal development.
What Do They Enjoy About Their Work?
This question may not be absolutely necessary, but I think the answer can be really telling. If a therapist truly loves their work, it’ll come out in their response. And if they don’t, that will start to leak out too. Either way, I think absorbing an open-ended answer to this question can help you narrow it down if you’re looking at multiple therapists.
What other questions would you add? What questions have been helpful for you in the past? Have any of these questions helped you choose a wonderful therapist? Share with us in the comments below!