Scheduling your first appointment with a therapist brings you halfway to a better life. Having a good relationship with your therapist can double the potential benefits of your therapy. However, finding the right therapist can take some time, energy and experimentation. It is far better to discuss mutual expectations in the beginning and clear things rather than later finding out you were not the right match.
Before you invest financially and emotionally, getting to know your therapist can help you determine if you’re going to go well together. Watching someone’s portfolio online is sometimes not enough to judge their character and expertise.
To help you find the right psychologist and protect you from potential damage down the road, here is a list of 10 questions you should ask a therapist during your first therapy session.
1. Are you licensed?
Although “Psychologists” and “Psychiatrists” are protected terms that can only be used by someone who has a specific advanced degree. However, “counselors” and “coaches” may or may not be licensed. Not having a state license means they have not gone through professional procedures to acquire this position. So, their methods of treatment are not trustworthy. Although almost all therapists need a license to start their practice, you must still ask this to get any confusion out of the way.
2. What are your areas of expertise?
If you deal with a specific issue, then going to a therapist that specializes in that problem is a much better idea than to see a generalist. Keeping your problem in mind, ask your therapist what do they specialize in? What are their areas of expertise? What kind of training and educational background do you have? This will help you see how much attuned they are with your specific issue.
3. I am here because of X. Have you dealt with such patients in the past?
Your therapist might have a good reputation for treating patients who deal with anxiety. They may not have the same experience for treating Schizophrenic patients. So, it’s better to ask about your specific problem right in the beginning. How many people have they treated with similar problems in the past? Do they specialize in my specific area of concern? Are they well aware of it or should I seek some other specialist?
4. What is your cost per session?
Therapy can be expensive. Before you start, you should clear out whether there are any additional hidden charges or not. And also see if your insurance policy covers therapy with this specific therapist. If you have difficulties affording therapy, ask them if they have a “sliding-scale” in which they charge a client depending on their income.
5. Can you prescribe medications?
People have different views about medications. Some prefer not to take drugs while others prefer to take antidepressants. Psychologists and Psychiatrists differ because only a psychiatrist can prescribe you medications. Ask them if they have any psychiatry degree or if they can make referrals to a psychiatrist if needed.
6. What is your approach to therapy?
Different interventions are practiced by different therapists. Some focus more on the problem at hand while others like to dive deep in the past to get to the roots of your issues. Some use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as their primary approach while others may use both medications and therapy to help you solve your problems. So, getting knowhow of what approach you’ll be using can help you get a head start and determine if that’s the right direction for you.
Can I trust you that everything I say stays between you and me? Can I disclose personal information with you? Can I trust you? Ask them about their patient’s confidentiality policy. This will help you feel secure and create a trustworthy bond with your therapist.
8. How will I know I’m making progress?
Ask them what milestones will determine if I’m actually making progress or not. Therapy does not always have to be a lifetime choice. If you’re looking to fix your current problems, then short-term therapy might be the right approach for you. But if you have a history of recurring issues, then you may work on long-term therapy. Ask them, how will I know that I have made progress? This will help you create a mindset for whether what you need is a short-term goal-oriented therapy or a long-term ongoing approach.
9. Can I contact outside of work hours?
So, what if I see you at a grocery store with your family, should I approach and say hi or do you like our relationship to stay only in office hours? This will also translate to whether you can call your therapist outside of your therapy sessions if you need help. And if they also provide online services in case you’re somewhere else and need therapeutic guidance. What are their policies contacting outside of office hours? Clearing this out, in the beginning, will remove any confusion you might face in the future.
10. If things don’t feel good to me, how do I communicate that to you?
Therapy is not going to be a straight road all the time. Some things might work, others won’t. It’s better to decide beforehand if something does not seem to work, how can I provide you with critical feedback? Being open and true with one another is essential to gain the best from your therapy experience. Knowing what ways you can use to communicate your differences will allow you to respect each other’s boundaries and keep any unnecessary conflict at bay.
Investing some time in knowing your therapist before you commit is an essential step if you want a long-lasting relationship. In your first session, do your best for clarifying any doubts and honestly see if this person is going to be the right fit for me in the long run. Deciding this, in the beginning, will help you easily invest in your therapist and develop a trustworthy and strong bond.