Deciding to see a therapist is a good decision. If you choose to do this, you are choosing yourself – and to improve your relationships and your life by overcoming any obstacles you may have. However, if you have never been to therapy, how do you choose a good counselor?
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A good therapist is right for you. You should be warm and you should be comfortable being vulnerable and in the room (or via telemedicine). Most therapists offer free 10 to 15 minute phone consultations where you can decide if they are the kind of professionals to build a relationship with. Here’s what to ask in this chat so you can make an informed decision about your mental health.
Have you ever worked with clients with (presenting problem)?
This exploratory call is an opportunity for you to say why you want to seek support from a therapist. You don’t have to go into detail, but you can say you need support dealing with a bereavement, or your romantic relationship, or dealing with anger, etc.
Once you’ve explained why you’re seeking therapy known as “the problem at hand,” ask your therapist if they’ve worked with patients with the same problem before. This will help you understand if they can assist you in achieving your goals.
What are your specialties?
There are a variety of therapeutic modalities that counselors and psychologists learn during their studies, with many choosing their preferred modality and aligning their practice accordingly. These may include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, narrative therapy, grief counseling, acceptance and attachment therapy, somatic bodywork, and more. Depending on the client’s goals and needs, the therapist should be able to choose the model that best supports them.
Some of these also require “homework” between sessions, so take that into account – are you the kind of person who does their homework? If you are not sure what each of these modalities means, ask your therapist to explain and give you an example.
Where do you practice?
COVID-19 has changed a lot for medical professionals and psychiatrists, including the ability to offer telemedicine consultations to their clients. This makes therapy more accessible than ever as you can do it from the comfort of your own home and within the hours that suit you.
Of course, most therapists still offer in-room sessions, outside of private practices or specialized therapy companies, or even through employee assistant programs. Knowing where your therapists practice helps you understand if you are able to stay with therapy when traveling to/from multiple sessions – often important to seeing results.
What are your availabilities?
Once you know where your therapist practices, you can check when their next availability is possible. Check with the therapist if they offer evening or weekend sessions to help you manage your work schedule and family commitments.
As therapists, we recognize that a potential client looking for an exploratory session likely needs support as soon as possible. As such, we will do everything in our power to get you to our next available meeting time – and if we are unable to do so, we will refer you to a colleague who can.
What are your fees and how are they managed?
Each therapist has different fees depending on where they practice, what session length they offer (default is 50 minutes), whether it’s telemedicine or in-room, their experience, areas of specialization, and more. Knowing your therapist’s fees before you commit allows you to manage ongoing therapy and see results.
If you get along well with a therapist but find their fees unsustainable in the long term, ask them if they can see you fortnightly instead of weekly, or monthly instead of fortnightly. Most therapists will be able to work with you to find a structure that suits you as it shows you are willing to get the job done.
Do you see a therapist yourself?
This question may seem a little personal, but it can be the best way to understand if your therapist is practicing what they preach. Although this is a closed question (‘yes’ or ‘no’), you will be able to see that the therapist is committed to managing their own mental health – so that they can best support their clients.
About the author: BARE Therapy is an Australia-based counseling service. Tammi Sue, Certified Practitioner Counselor, empowers clients to break through their “stucks” to live a better life. Learn more – @bare__therapy.