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6 Questions to Ask When Calling a Therapist for the First Time

Choosing a therapist is a personal decision.  If you’re at all like I am, I have all these questions and then when I actually get someone on the phone, they flow right out of my mind.  In order to prevent this from happening, it can be good to jot down some notes ahead of time, so you’re prepared, make sure you get your questions answered, and feel confident in your choice of therapist.  The point of calling to talk to a therapist rather than just booking straight away online, is to find out “is this a good fit?”  The world is full of therapists.  I know sometimes it may not feel that way as you sort through list after list, find people who are full, or do not accept your insurance.  At the same time, in most places, and especially now with online telehealth options, you will be able to find someone who is a good fit for you and your needs.  So what do you really want to know when calling?  Read on for some ideas.

1) What experience do you have treating [INSERT YOUR ISSUE]?  

In order to feel confident in your therapist’s skills, you’ll want to know the types of experiences they’ve had treating your issue.  This could be your age group i.e. treating teenagers, 20 somethings or those 65 and up.  This could be your particular mental health issue i.e. anxiety, ADHD, depression, or something else.  This could be treating addiction or divorce or grief work.  Any confident therapist will tell you, yes, here’s my experience with your issue or “you know what, I specialize in these areas, and I think you’d be a better fit with one of my colleagues.”  Either way, it will help to know what their expertise and experience is treating whatever you’ve got going on.  

2) What’s your style?

Is this a therapist who is psychoanalytic and wants to explore things that happened in your childhood or is a solution-focused therapist who wants to help you feel better quickly and get you on your way?  I want to stress here, neither style is better or worse, it’s about what you’re looking for and what’s going to resonate most for you.  After all this is your treatment, and it needs to work for you.  You may not know much about different therapeutic styles.  That’s okay too.  It’s still a great question to ask a therapist on a first time call, because you’ll learn about what styles are out there and eventually find one that just sort of “clicks” with what you’re looking for.  

3) How long are your clients typically with you?

As a therapist, I can say, this is a tough thing to answer, but most experienced therapists will have a good idea of an average length of time of treatment.  They will most likely qualify their answer saying, “in general people work with me for X number of months or sessions.  That being said, each person is different and it depends on you as the individual.”  The reason length of time varies is back to question number two above, different styles take different lengths of time.  People who engage in psychoanalytic therapy are often okay exploring things in session for years.  I’ve known people to be in therapy for ten years, because they enjoy the process of self-discovery.  But if you’re going through a breakup, it may only take you weeks or months to process what you need to and move forward.  The other thing to consider as a potential client, is the course of treatment is up to you.  Are you following through on commitments you made in session?  Are  you practicing the skills you’re learning outside of the therapy space, so you can improve in your reactions or learn how to respond to your thoughts or moods?  Again, this is a great question to ask, so you have an idea.  If you’re looking to build a relationship with a therapist and they say they typically work with people for 6-12 sessions, you may want to keep looking.

4) What types of outcomes do your clients typically see?

I love this question, because when you ask it, you’ll learn about some of the benefits of therapy with that particular therapist.  For example, when someone asks me this question as a teen therapist, some of the things I say are: learn to identify how our thoughts influence our feelings and then our actions; clients also learn how to notice when something’s “flipped their lid” and what to do to calm down; and clients learn how to trust their own intuition and be able to express themselves to the people around them.  The reason this question is important is because it will help you know if those are some of the results you want to see from therapy.  Let’s say your goal is to start dating again after a breakup and the therapist responds, “I help people accept and enjoy being single.”  Well, this may or may not be a good fit for you.  Maybe learning to be single is important, then again, maybe you want to identify your relationship patterns so you can find a healthier relationship.  See how those two results may not align?  Again, use the first call with a therapist as a time for discovery.  Think about it like you’re interviewing the therapist, just as much as the therapist may be interviewing you.  

5) How often do you see your clients?

Many therapists prefer to see clients weekly when they’re first starting off in treatment.  Some therapists will even see a client more often if they are in the middle of some serious struggles and there are safety concerns around self harm or suicide.  Other therapists may be more flexible and may be willing to do biweekly sessions (every other week) or even less.  This may work better for you for example if your teen lives between two homes and one house just isn’t conducive to supporting the teen to participate in therapy.  Or let’s say you found someone you really want to work with, but their fee is outside of your budget.  Maybe you could make two sessions a month work and not four.  Be prepared for the therapist to say, “I only see people weekly for the first X number of sessions”, but it still can be helpful to ask.

6) Do you take insurance/what’s your fee?

Considering finances in therapy is a part of the therapeutic process.  Therapy is its own experience without the stress of, “how am I going to afford this?”  It’s important to find a therapist who’s a good fit both emotionally and financially.  If the one you’re talking to is a good fit but out of your budget, then move on.  I’ve seen people come up with the money to work with a certain therapist, because they really love the person and are ready to change.  That’s not always possible though and certainly not an expectation.  If insurance is a key piece to you being able to get the treatment you need, then by all means, find a therapist who accepts your insurance.  They are out there.  It may take several phone calls to find the right fit, but trust that’s part of the process.  Healing comes through action and researching, talking to therapists, and choosing a good fit is several steps towards feeling better.  

A key element to the therapeutic journey is the relationship you develop with a therapist.  It’s worth a few extra phone calls to find a good fit.  At the same time, if you start with someone, and it feels like it’s not really jibing after the first one to three sessions, it’s okay to move on.  What’s most important is your experience.  You need to be able to like and trust the therapist you’re working with, and you know what’s best for you.  

If after reading this, you’re ready to reach out and have a first phone call with me to find out if I’m a good fit to work with your teen, call (737) 808-4888 or fill out the secure contact form, so I can call you.                

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