Health

The 14 Questions You Should Ask a Therapist Before Your First Appointment

Photo by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/iStock

Only about half of Americans diagnosed with major depression receive treatment for it, according to a 2010 survey supported by the National Institute of Mental Health. There are a wide variety of factors for that shocking number, including cost, availability, and access, but it certainly doesn’t help that finding a good therapist is a challenging and anxiety-producing situation. 

To lessen that apprehension find out whether a therapist’s professional style and approach will help you achieve your goals before you lie down on the couch for your first full session. Think of hiring a therapist like buying a new car or house—you have to do your research. And the more research you do, the more comfortable you’ll feel during therapy, and the more likely you’ll be to stick with it.

Most therapists offer a 15-minute consultation where you can explain your objectives and ask them questions. Here are the top questions you should ask a therapist before making an appointment. 

Basic Questions to Ask a Prospective Therapist

It’s often uncomfortable to talk with a physician about cost or their credentials—but both those topics can have a momentous effect on your ability to continue to seek treatment and the trust you place in your provider. Plus, any therapist worth their salt will be happy to openly discuss pricing, insurance, and other practical matters. After all, if you’re stressed about making payments, you’re only adding to your troubles.

  • How long have you been practicing?
  • What licenses and certifications do you have and which professional organizations do you belong to?
  • How much do you charge? What are you sliding-scale options?
  • How many clients have you had with similar circumstances to my own? When was the last time you worked with someone similar to me?
  • Describe your ideal patient.

Is This Therapist a Good Fit?

It’s important to find a therapist that meshes with your personality. If you’re nervous about starting therapy, perhaps a more guided approach to meet your goals is best. Or, if you’re a therapy veteran, maybe a direct route is appropriate. And don’t be afraid to ask a potential therapist about their own personal experiences with therapy—a good therapist believes in their field and knows what it’s like to be the one lying on the couch.  

  • What are your strengths and limitations as a counselor?
  • What is your general philosophy and approach to helping? Are you more directive or more guiding?
  • Have you been in therapy yourself? How recently?
  • How often do you seek peer consultation?

 

Setting Goals For Therapy

Congratulations! You’ve passed the first hurdle—seeking help. That’s a big deal, and you should be proud of yourself. Now you need to jot down some goals to discuss with your potential therapist so you can continue to jump those hurdles going forward. By creating goals, you increase the value of your time in therapy and set yourself up for success!

  • How often would you anticipate seeing me? For how long?
  • How do you set up counseling goals? What are they like? What is success for you?
  • What is typical session like? How long are the sessions?
  • What kind of homework/reading do you give patients?
  • How do I prepare for my first session?

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Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato

Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato is a freelance science, health, and environment reporter based in Washington, DC, whose work has appeared in National Geographic, NPR, Scientific American, The Atlantic, Newsweek, and Nature.