How to Choose a Therapist + What Questions to Ask Before You Do
Updated: Aug 30, 2021
Choosing a therapist is hard! Whether you are utilizing a therapist search engine (like
Psychology Today or Therapy Den) or are getting recommendations from friends, there are likely a lot of options that sound relatively similar. It can feel daunting. I wanted to talk about some helpful things to consider when beginning this process, as well as questions to ask in a therapy consultation/ phone call, to help you find the best fit!
First of all, remember that this is for YOU. You do not have to choose the first therapist with availability or that returns your call. This is the perfect time to be picky. Make sure you find someone you feel comfortable with, has a schedule that lines up well with yours, and specializes in what you are seeking assistance for. I encourage everyone to utilize a free consultation call, if offered, to get a sense of the therapist’s style, ask any questions you have, and see if it feels like a good connection.
But, how do you even know who to schedule a consultation call with? Fair question.
Here are several questions to ask yourself when beginning your search for a therapist:
Do I prefer a female, male, or non-binary provider?
Am I comfortable with telehealth (phone/video) support or do I want to see someone in person?
How far am I willing to travel? (if in person)
What specialties do I want them to have? (anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, etc.)
Would I respond best to a structured approach that addresses my thinking patterns (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), an approach that helps me increase control of my emotions/reactions (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), somatic methods that help me tune into where I am holding emotions in my body, therapy that helps me address a traumatic experience (EMDR, Cognitive Processing Therapy), or a combination? (If you are interested in a more extensive list of therapy types, click here)
Would I connect best with someone who is a part of the same community as me, shares my faith, or is in a certain age group?
These questions can help narrow down who would be a great match for you and what training/qualifications you seek. Once you have narrowed down who you would like to work with, see if they offer a complimentary consultation and take some time to think about what is important for them to answer for you during this conversation. A consultation is not a therapy session, it is a chance for both you and the therapist to decide if you would work well together. If the therapist you are interested in working with does not offer a consultation, you can request a phone call or bring any questions you have to your first session.
Here are some questions that may be helpful to ask the therapist:
How often do you like to see clients (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly)?
How long do you typically see clients (months, years)?
What is your availability (days of the week and time of day), would our sessions be set for the same day/time each week?
I am interested in support for __________, do you have experience helping people with this concern? What approaches do you use?
What is the structure of a typical session for you?
Do you assign homework or use goal-setting?
Do you accept my insurance? -or- What is the cost of a session? Do you offer sliding scale or reduced fee payments?
If you have specific questions, this is a great time to ask:
Is your practice LGBTQIA+ friendly? Kink-friendly? Gender-affirming?
Do you write letters of readiness for gender-affirming surgery?
Do you write emotional support animal letters?
Do you complete diagnostic testing?
Do you offer couples or family therapy?
Are you comfortable working with me if I use substances?
Here are 3 possible outcomes following a consultation/ initial visit:
You may decide that this therapist is a great fit for you and they agree! You can schedule your next appointment and cross finding the right therapist off of your to-do list!
You may decide that this therapist is not a great fit for you. You can thank them for their time and continue searching! You don’t need to give any explanation if you aren’t comfortable, but you can also note why you don’t feel they are the best fit (they aren’t specialized in what you’re hoping to address, their availability does not work for you) and ask if they have any recommendations or referrals.
The therapist may tell you that they don’t feel their training/expertise is the right fit for you, which we are ethically required to do! They may offer several referrals or recommendations for therapists who would be a good fit and you can decide if you would like that resource or not.
This process is full of big steps that take big energy and courage! When we are dealing with anxiety, depression, grief, trauma or any other mental health strain, beginning the process of finding a therapist can be overwhelming. Feel free to print or use the questions or ideas in this blog, if you feel that would make it a little easier! You deserve to find the right therapist and if you’re reading this, you are ready for this process.