5 Starter Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist
You’re a brave soldier my friend. No, seriously, reaching out to a potential therapist is SUPER nerve wracking! So maybe by now you’ve written them (or you’re thinking about it) and you are sitting there asking yourself, okay so now what?
Most counselors and therapists offer a free consultation or free initial session to see if you would both be a good fit. I HIGHLY recommend doing this. Why do you ask? Well….
The fit between a client who is receiving therapy or counseling and the counselor/therapist is directly linked to successful therapeutic outcomes.
All that to say, making sure the therapist you are working with is the right fit for you is SUPER IMPORTANT!
To help support you in finding the right fit, I’ve compiled a list of questions below you can ask a potential therapist.
1. What is your approach to the therapeutic process?
This question is important because it provides you insight on how they might work with you. Let’s say they respond with something like, “I approach the therapeutic process as a collaboration and I will gently guide and make suggestions along the way.” And you’re thinking hmm… I would like someone a bit more active. This is something important to figure out ahead of time.
2. What are your beliefs on the nature and frequency of therapy? What do you think would be a good fit for me? (You can ask this second part after you provide them more information on how they can best support you)
How they answer this question will help you gauge what you can expect for the coming weeks, months, years of your work together. This is also your opportunity to be upfront about what you had in mind for a timeline.
3. How do you create goals for our work together and/or how do we check in on my progress?
There are many, many ways to approach this depending on the style, approach and theoretical lens your therapist uses. Do you want SMART goals as a client? Which will help you identify specific and concrete actions you can take? Do you trust your therapist to gently guide the process? Are you interested in changing behaviors and want some measures around behavior change? The way this question gets answered helps you understand how you can map your support in therapy if you are goal-oriented.
4. How quickly can I anticipate a shift or change?
I cringed as I wrote this question because as a therapist myself it is truly hard to provide a solid answer. A lot of the answer to the questions depends on how much you, the client, truly plan on showing up for sessions, bringing your honest emotions, etc. That being said, how your potential therapist answers this question gives you insight into how they would support you. I know a common fear for some clients is that there will not be an endpoint to therapy. Another common fear is that they will pay lots of money to not see any changes. In my opinion, the answer to this question helps you gauge their viewpoint on both extremes.
5. What strengths do you bring with you into the therapy room?
How they answer this question will let you know in what ways they may be “different” from therapists with a similar style and/or theoretical orientation, training, etc. For example, I would answer this question by saying that I bring innovation, creativity, humor and optimism as my strengths into the therapy room. So, if that is something you also value/ are looking for then you would know that we are aligned and that is how I may show up differently than my peers. The way your potential therapist answers this question helps you get to the finite details of what sitting across from them in-person, or online might be like.
6. BONUS Question: Do you think it is important for therapists to engage in their own therapy?
This is a bonus question because it can be really scary to ask a potential therapist. It’s definitely not a *MUST*. I feel it is important though because there is a saying, “You can only go as deep as you’ve been yourself.” A fancy way of saying if your therapist has done their own work, they are able sit with all of your deep and intense emotions. Which is another common fear of clients. Will I scare them away? Will I overwhelm my therapist? No way. Not if they’ve done their own work.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below if this was helpful and what you thought about it.