Below are a list of questions to ask yourself and any potential therapist you are considering:
What am I experiencing? Writing down what you are struggling with will best prepare you to discuss it with your therapist. Are you experiencing anxiety over the state of the world or something in your personal life? Did you just make a big life transition or are you anticipating one? These are great questions to ask yourself before consulting a therapist for the first time. The more specific, the better.
What communication style do I prefer? Do you like a little tough love, or are you seeking someone who emanates gentlenss and compassion? Are you wanting a space to vent with a third party, or do you want to work on a specific area of your life? Maybe it’s a combination of all these things. “It’s helpful to get a sense of the therapist’s communication style so that you can decide if it will work for you,” LaSov says. “Some therapists take a more laid-back approach and let you do all of the talking, while other therapists jump in more assertively in the conversation and take a prescriptive approach.” If you’ve been to therapy before, think about what you liked and didn’t like (or what resonated or didn’t) about your previous therapy experience.
Am I more forthcoming about my emotions or more reserved? Do I want to explore the past or stay in the present? Knowing the answer to these questions can help your therapist provide the best guidance and care possible in delicate conversations. You want to get a sense of how the therapist helps patients work through thoughts and feelings if they are stuck, and whether they offer a more “exploratory” style of therapy, or are they more “solution focused”.
Do I prefer in-person or virtual? The pandemic has changed how and when people work, and the healthcare field is no exception. Some therapists only see patients in person, others only use telehealth platforms, and some offer a hybrid of the two. “If you have a preference of how you’d like to receive therapy, make sure you express that to the therapist, and see if they can offer this for you,” LaSov says. Also consider the commute and how far you’d be willing to travel on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis.
What is my budget? Finances can be a huge barrier to people seeking professional help. Therapist run the gamut from economically out-of-reach to more affordable. Some are willing to work with sliding-scale payments. When considering if you want to (or can) pay out of pocket or through insurance, be sure to double-check this information against what the therapists policies are. Understand their process for fee collection, cancellation policy, billing HSA/FSA, insurance, etc.
Other things to consider. For some people, age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and religion are important, and having a therapist who specializes in your background may be additionally helpful — or even crucial — to you. That is for you to decide. Many therapists don’t mind you asking. For example, ask the therapist, “What is your background in working with people in my age group?” or “What is your experience working with this particular community?”
How to know if they’re right for you. “In my opinion, most patients will intuitively know if a therapist is the right fit for them,” LaSov says. “There is typically an unspoken chemistry that occurs between the therapist and the patient, but this can take a few sessions to appear.” Some know after the initial consultation, after one session, or even after two or three. But if the connection isn’t there, you can simply say, “I’m going to explore other options,” and thank them for their time.
Until next time, peace.