Deciding to get a therapist is a huge move, so good for you for doing it! But the relationship between you and your therapist will directly impact how worthwhile your counseling experience is, despite what you’re looking to get out of it. We can be fooled into thinking that just because someone has a degree in something we know nothing about, they must be good. And they likely are. But you want to make sure they’re right for you. You’re allowed to find out before you start, so here are a few questions to ask before choosing a therapist to help get you started.
Choosing a therapist isn’t a perfect science. And it doesn’t always work out.
But that’s OK! When it works, you’ll know. And if you start to realize later on that you’re not getting much from therapy, you can break up with up them and find a new one.
So think about what you want, and then head out for a few consultations and ask your potential new therapists some of these questions.
1Ask them about their counseling philosophy.
There are many different schools of thought when it comes to therapy. Ask your therapist if they follow any certain method and what that entails. You might even want to tell them exactly why you decided to come to therapy, and ask them how they would, theoretically, go about helping you.
2Have they done this thing before?
If you’re going to a therapist for a certain reason — grief, coming out, substance abuse — this is extremely important. Therapists are supposed to be no judgement zones, but depending on where you live and where you’re seeking help, you might run into some haters. If you’re having some thoughts about your sexuality or gender, you want to make sure you get a therapist who understands those things. If they don’t have any experience with helping you tackle alcoholism, you might want to find someone who knows how. Ask them what their specialities are and what sort of patients they treat.
3Is there any bonus time involved?
What’s the protocol for crisis time? Find out if you are able to call or email between sessions and what the potential costs for that time will be. If your schedule is unpredictable or you travel for work, do you always have to come to the office, or can you hold phone or Skype appointments? These are important questions to ask early on so you know how flexible you can (or cannot) be.
4What’s your stance on medication?
Remember, not all therapists are prescribers, so you want to find out anyway where they stand on medicating depression and anxiety. Eventually, if you need medication, it will be your choice, but it’s good to know what might come up down the line.
5Have *you* been in therapy?
This might seem too personal, but it’s so important! Therapists are supposed to have experience being in counseling themselves. You’ll be surprised at how open a therapist will be about their own experiences.
6How deep are we going to go?
This will depend on their methods and school of thought, but try to figure out if you want to tackle issues in the ~here and now~ and just move on, or if you’re going to have to go all the way back and work your way towards the present. Let’s be real, most of our issues have to deal with things we’ve experienced in our past, but you want to find a therapist who can help you connect the dots in a way that works for you.
7Who’s leading here?
Ask your therapist if you’ll come in and just start talking, or if they have a more structured approach. Different people prefer different ways — there is no right or wrong way — but ask them how they usually like to run things, and see if that’s something you can work with.
Finding the right therapist is essential to making it work. Be proactive about it and know that ultimately it’s your choice.