Quiet Space Counseling

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The search for a therapist is an important part of your mental wellness journey. Therapy is ultimately a personal experience, and feeling comfortable and represented by your therapist can have a huge impact on your experience. But it can be hard to know what to look for in a therapist. This article outlines key questions to ask a therapist during your search to help you identify the right match for your personality and needs.

1.  What is your training and background?

It’s important to be aware of your therapist’s credentials. Inquire about their educational history, licenses, and certifications. For example, are you a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed professional counselor (LPC), psychologist (PhD or PsyD), or psychiatrist (MD)? Different credentials carry different implications for therapists’ styles of therapy.

Follow-up Questions:

  • How many years have you been in practice?
  • Have you worked with clients who share my concerns?

2.  What’s your therapeutic style?

Therapists may employ different therapeutic styles, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, humanistic therapy, or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). It’s helpful to learn their style and determine if it’s a good fit for you.

Follow-up Questions:

  • Can you explain how this approach works?
  • What does a typical session look like?

3. What client demographic do you typically serve?

Many therapists develop specialties or target certain client groups. It can be helpful to learn what percentage of their practice is dedicated to particular demographics or client needs, especially if you share unique identities (such as LGBTQ+), have a history of (such as trauma), or suffer from certain addictions.

Follow-up Questions:

  • Have you ever worked with clients who have (specific issue)?
  • What kind of results did they achieve?

4. What does your progress framework look like?

Therapeutic progress can sometimes feel abstract. It helps to learn how therapists monitor progress and adjust treatment plans accordingly. This process can offer you measurable goals and a clear sense of direction in your therapy.

Follow-up Questions:

  • What kind of goals will we establish together?
  • How will you determine if we’re meeting them?

5. What is your confidentiality policy?

Above all else, therapeutic sessions must offer clients a sense of safety. Learn how your therapist plans to handle sensitive and identifiable information. Ask if there are any exceptions in which client identities or session details will be shared with a third party (such as in cases of imminent danger).

Follow-up Questions:

  • What kind of circumstances lead to a breach of confidentiality?
  • How will you store and secure my personal information?

6. What’s your scheduling practice?

Scheduling consistency is an important part of the therapeutic relationship. Learn of therapists’ office hours, session durations, and cancellation policies to ensure you’ll be able to establish a productive routine.

Follow-up Questions:

  • How frequent are your sessions?
  • How do you handle cancellations or emergencies?

7. What’s your rate and insurance policy?

Like any medical service, therapy represents a financial investment. It’s important to learn how much care will cost before committing to a practitioner. Ask about therapist rates, sliding scale fees, and insurance coverage.

Follow-up Questions:

  • Do you accept my insurance?
  • Do you charge any late fees or cancellation fees?

8. Do you have client references or testimonials?

Learning about other clients’ experiences with your potential therapist can be a great way to determine if they’re a good fit for you. Therapists must prioritize clients’ confidentiality, so any references given will likely be anonymous or general comments. However, some therapists may have case testimonials available online or in-office.

Follow-up Questions:

  • Are you experienced working with clients of different [race/ethnicity/identity]?
  • What training or experience do you have in this area?

9. How do you manage stressful or conflictual situations in therapy?

It’s worthwhile to learn how therapists respond to tension within the therapeutic relationship. Ask about their policies or practices for dealing with therapist-client disagreements or discomfort.

Follow-up Questions:

  • What should I expect if I’m uncomfortable with something we are working on?
  • How do you handle conflicts or misunderstandings?

10.  What is your cultural competency?

Cultural competence refers to an organization’s ability to recognize, respect, and effectively address and meet the needs of people from diverse cultures, races, and ethnic backgrounds. If you belong to a minority culture or have specific, culture-related needs, it’s particularly important to learn therapists’ experiences working with clients with similar identities or needs.

Follow-up Questions:

  • What kind of approach does therapy with clients of different backgrounds take?
  • What training or experience do you have in this area?

11. What’s your position on medication?

In case you are considering or presently taking medication, it may be important to learn therapists’ positions on psychiatric medication. This line of questioning is especially useful if your therapist isn’t a psychiatrist (and therefore unable to prescribe medication).

Follow-up Questions:

  • Are there psychiatrists you collaborate with?
  • Are you experienced working with medicated clients?

Remember,

the initial consultation is not just an interview. It’s a time for you to gauge the therapist and for the therapist to determine if you are someone they can work with. Ask questions and be honest with your desires.

Working with a therapist is an investment. Asking these questions and considering your gut reaction along the way will better your odds of finding someone you’ll feel safe and comfortable with, who will help you achieve mental and emotional wellness.

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