Starting therapy and meeting your therapist for the first time is similar to going on a first date. You may be feeling a little anxious and are not sure what to expect. We’ve been there too!
When meeting someone for the first time it’s normal to ask a lot of questions in order to get to know them and build trust. Meeting your new therapist shouldn’t be any different!
We asked our clinical director, Morgan, to come up with questions that are good to ask a therapist during a first session. Morgan also included some great questions to ask if you are considering online therapy as well.
Questions to Ask your Therapist
1. Do you / will you collaborate with outside providers or significant others in my life?
First, it is essential for you to know who will be a part of your therapeutic journey. Some therapists will just work solely with you, while others may like to incorporate other people in your life.
2. What is your theoretical approach? Can you help me understand what that means? (Some terms to know psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, Jungian / Gestalt, CBT etc.)
Second, just as every therapist has their own style, most will be trained in one or a few specific theories of therapy. Basically, this is the framework around which your therapy will be built. This might influence their language, how they “conceptualize” your work together, and their expectations for progress.
3. How long have you been practicing? Are you licensed? Where did you go to school?
It’s important to know that the person helping you has the credentials to do so. It takes time to become a qualified therapist! It is helpful to know what their experience and education is.
4. How often do you work with people with my concerns or diagnoses? How familiar are you?
While many therapists work with many different issues and ages, some may specialize in one or two areas. For example they may specialize in young adults with depression or teens with ADHD.
5. Do you have any additional certifications in specific therapies? Can you explain what they mean? (CBT, DBT, EMDR, ACT, MI, etc.)
Therapy is growing too! In addition to traditional schooling, there are a lot of certifications out there that a therapist can add to their tool box of things to help you. Some of these may be art or dance therapy certifications.
6. Can we communicate between sessions? What does that look like?
Asking a question like this early on helps to establish boundaries between you and your therapist. Each therapist is unique and you may have had a different experience in the past. Be sure to bring this up!
7. How long are sessions and how often? What would be considered to be a course of therapy?
Get an idea of how much time and how frequently you will be seeing this person. This is a good way to gauge your therapeutic goals.
8. Do you use treatment plans or set goals? How does that work? (Do we collaborate together? Do I sign them? Does anyone else review them?)
Another great way to work with your therapist is to find out if they give ‘homework’ like a treatment plan. Again, your therapist will always want to work with you. So, if there is something that has or has not worked for you in the past make sure you speak up!
9. How comfortable are you making referrals to someone else if we aren’t a good fit? Are there reasons you would stop seeing me as a therapist?
Once you have found a therapist and you realize it is not a good fit, getting back out there can be tough. Make sure your therapist is willing to work with you, even if that means helping you find another therapist.
10. How do you think I am progressing? Where do we go from here?
This is a great question to ask when you have had a few sessions. It can be uncomfortable to put yourself out there so only ask this when you feel you are ready.
Online therapy specific:
Online therapy looks a bit different than traditional in person therapy. There are some important things to consider like how your privacy will be protected and how you will be communicating.
Some important questions to ask during your first session or even before are;
1. How quickly will you get back to me if I reach out to you?
2. Do you have an understanding of the resources in my area?
3. How do you handle technology troubles? (includes cost/reimbursement of session, alternate platforms, etc)
4.How do you protect my privacy while we are online / on the phone?
Finally, it’s okay to therapist shop! Sometimes the first one isn’t always the right one. You won’t hurt their feelings by telling them they aren’t a good fit or it isn’t working out. It is their job to help you and sometimes that means helping you find a therapist who is a better fit. We hope that you found some of these questions helpful and that they lead you to find your perfect match!