Finding the Right Therapist for You
Okay, I think many of us have been there. We finally feel like we’ve reached a breaking point and we just can’t get out of the yucky stuckness. We wake up and decide that we’ll finally bring in a professional…..Then what? We spend time scrolling through Psychology Today or Therapy Den profiles. We see hundreds of photos, bios, and websites. Many of them sound good, and we go through the process of reaching out to schedule our first appointment. Yay!
These moments are very important. Once we make contact with a potential therapist, we start the process of determining whether we've found a good fit. I’m going to tell you a few things to help you along, because the truth is, even as your therapist asks you millions of questions during your consultations and intake, you are also doing an assessment of your own. That means it’s absolutely okay to ask loads of questions. Get to know your therapist just as much as they are getting to know you. I personally do a 10-15 minute consultation with each potential client before scheduling the intake session. The reason for this is to determine upfront if something may be a dealbreaker. I don’t’ want to take on a client I’m not equipped to treat. I want to ensure I feel competent in addressing the issues they are seeking treatment for. I ask questions during these moments to determine goodness of fit, and I love it when clients do the same!
Here are some questions to ask your therapist during the consultation call:
1. What modalities do you use?
Some folks come into therapy after being with multiple therapists in the past. They already know certain approaches work better than others. If that’s you, then you don’t’ want to jump in with a therapist that uses a modality you’ve never found helpful. This also gives you the chance to decide what kind of therapy you want. Are you seeking traditional talk therapy? Do you want a treatment specifically for trauma processing like EMDR? Do you want yoga, dance, nature walks, meditation, or art incorporated into your therapy? Take this time to explore how your therapist will provide treatment and if their approach is right for you.
2. What insurance do you take?
This is a big one! If you have insurance benefits you want to use, make sure you ask upfront if your therapist takes your type of insurance. If they don’t, ask if they can provide superbills so you can seek reimbursement on your own. For some, finding a therapist that is not in-network with their provider is a dealbreaker, and that’s totally fine. If you don’t’ have insurance, ask your therapist what their session rates are. Make sure it’s something you can budget for. Some therapists have sliding scale slots, which means they can offer lower rates for people with financial need. Don’t hesitate to ask if you’re in this boat. Even if the specific therapist you’re speaking to doesn’t have open slots, they may be able to provide a referral to someone with openings.
3. How do you provide your services?
This is where you can determine if your therapist provides in-person services, telehealth, or a combination. The age of COVID has transitioned many providers to fully telehealth where they plan to remain. You want to decide how you wish to receive therapy and ensure the therapist you seek to meet with is able to meet this need.
4. What are your typical office hours and do you provide support after hours?
If you’re going to schedule with a new therapist, you want to make sure they have session times that fit into your schedule. You also want to ask them how long their sessions typically run so you can make appropriate arrangements. A typical session can range from 45-55 minutes, and the intake session may last even longer. You want to know what to expect so you can plan accordingly. Many have established policies around support after hours. Some may invite you to call/text after hours, while others only respond during normal business hours. All therapists should have a procedure they will communicate to you surrounding what to do if a crisis occurs outside of your session. You can discuss this at your first session if you’re concerned about crisis events.
5. Do you provide couples or family therapy?
This will likely be laid out on your therapists website, but it’s still a good thing to ask. This is especially true if you are seeking individual therapy but may want to incorporate a couple sessions with your partner or family. You want to ensure your potential therapist is comfortable with including these types of sessions into your work together. Also inquire about pricing, because the cost for these sessions may vary from your typical session fee.
6. Is your location accessible?
Take this time to assess your therapists physical location. If you use public transportation, ensure they are situated in a place you can access using your available systems. Ask about accommodations available if you need support surrounding a differing ability. Ask if the physical location has ramps, elevators, braille, large print, interpreters, etc. If not, inquire about steps that could be taken to enhance your access to the services provided. This gives you the opportunity to determine how sensitive and open your potential therapist is to working with you toward an effective solution.
Starting with a new therapist is an exciting and anxiety-provoking adventure. The above questions are a few ways you can gather important information as you get started on your journey. Remember, it’s okay to decide that one therapist isn’t a good fit for you. It’s also okay to tell them that and communicate exactly what you’re looking for. As I mentioned above, they may have some other therapists they can refer you too. It’s also important to remember that this process doesn’t end after the consultation or intake session. It can be on-going. You can get to session 4 and realize you’re not vibing with your therapist. Likewise, they could get to the same session and determine you may be better suited for a different therapist. This is okay, and it’s all part of the process. You want to find a good fit because you want therapy to be as effective as possible. Always remember that the relationship you have with your therapist is a big part of that!
Kiana Harlan, LCSW works with folx ages 16+ who have non-normative cultural identities and want to work on symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma, and who would like to regain connection to themselves and others. Kiana works with both individuals and couples. She works with clients in person in Asheville, NC and online anywhere in North Carolina.
She uses Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and is engaged in a Level I Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy certification course to increase her skillset in working with trauma and attachment wounds. You can read more about Kiana here.