Congratulations on taking the first step to seeking therapy! But now what? The process of getting a therapist can be daunting, especially if you don't know where to start or what to ask. One action I highly recommend when seeking a therapist is to take advantage of the free consultation. Many therapists offer 15-20 minute consultations to answer any questions you might have about therapy and/or to provide information on their therapy background/approach.
Think of a consultation as an interview for your future therapist. Be selective! Get a feel for who they are before you make a weekly, 45-60 minute commitment. Here are 5 questions you can ask a potential therapist during the consultation:
1. I am currently struggling with __________, do you have experience treating ____________?
For this question, take the time to briefly state the reasons why you are currently seeking therapy. Remember, a consultation is not a therapy session. It's time dedicated to obtain information and see if the therapist is a right match for you and your mental health needs. Ask the therapist if they have experience treating your referral concerns/issues (e.g., anxiety, depression, stress management, marital problems, ADHD, trauma, PTSD, etc.). Ask follow up questions that detail their training in this area, how long they've been treating ____., what their clinical background is, their approach to treatment, etc.
2. What's your specialty?
If you had heart problems, would you reach out to a cardiologist or a dermatologist? In therapy, one size does NOT fit all, which is why therapists have different specialties and backgrounds to treat an array of mental health disorders. If you are struggling with issues related to a potential eating disorder, it's best to find someone who has been trained and specializes in the assessment and treatment of eating disorders.
Don't be afraid to be upfront about the type of specialized treatment that you may require.
3. Do you take my insurance? If not, what are some other options (self-pay, sliding scale, out-of-network benefits)?
This is an important question, especially if you are using insurance to pay for therapy. First, check with your insurance benefits to verify that you are covered by your insurance plan. Also, do not assume that your therapist takes your insurance plan. Some therapists choose to opt out of insurance plans and only accept private pay. Some therapists may take insurance but do not participate with your insurance company. You could also do some research and review their website to check if they take your insurance.
Don't fret! If you don't see your insurance company listed or the therapist says they are not in-network, and you really want to work with that therapist (and may not be able to afford it), ask them about other payment options.
-Self-Pay: What do you charge for 30, 45, or 60 minute sessions? Some therapists offer different rates depending on the length of the session.
-Sliding Scale: Do you offer reduced therapy rates on a sliding scale? Sliding scales are reduced rate therapy sessions often based on your income. Some therapist offer a sliding scale to ease the financial burden of paying for therapy out-of-pocket.
-Out-of-network coverage: Will you be able to provide me with a statement to submit to my insurance company to get reimbursed. First and foremost, check with your insurance company to see if they offer out-of-network benefits, especially if you require specialized treatment and/or are unable to find a therapist using your insurance company. Using this route, you pay your therapist out-of-pocket and submit statements provided by your therapist to your insurance company for reimbursement. Verify with your insurance what their reimbursement rates are (how much or what percentage they will cover) before asking a potential therapist about this option.
4. I'm new to this. How do you approach therapy sessions?
The idea of knocking down your walls and bearing it all to one person is nerve-racking. It's okay to be upfront about being new to therapy and asking what to expect or how the therapist approaches their sessions. Some therapists might practice coping strategies in session. Some therapists are more active and are certified in incorporating movement like yoga. Some therapists will use this opportunity to explain how they use an evidence-based technique that can help alleviate the symptoms you may be experiencing. Asking this question can help ease your nerves and make you feel comfortable knowing how your first session or sessions will be moving forward. It's okay to know what to expect!
5. What can I do to make the most out of our sessions?
Here your therapist can make recommendations about some ideas you can do before therapy gets started or some helpful tips/advice for what to do after therapy or during the week. It's helpful to know what your future therapist's expectations are before starting therapy with them so that there aren't any surprises. Some therapists assign homework or exercises to complete during the week outside of therapy sessions. Some therapists use worksheets during session. Some therapists may prefer for you to have a journal. Asking this question helps you understand how you can maximize your sessions and make them more effective.
I hope these questions help provide some relief when starting with a new therapist. I wish you luck during this process! Happy searching!