Meeting with a therapist for the first time can feel frightening and overwhelming. But there are ways to make starting counseling less intimidating. One of those ways is to make sure you’ve chosen a therapist who will be a good fit for you.
Before committing to a regular schedule with a therapist, there are 4 questions you should know the answers to. These questions can typically be answered in an initial phone or in-person consultation with your potential therapist.
- What Type of Therapy Do You Offer?
Most therapists specialize in a particular kind of therapy such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), Gestalt, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Psychodynamic, or Family Systems. Each of these schools of thought will inform how that therapist works; how they personally believe change and growth occur.
For example, in my practice I depend on my training in EMDR since I find it to move patients forward to process difficult root causes of anxiety and other symptoms. I have used EMDR in a group setting for research and hope to engage in that free public service after COVID and our lives open up for such activities. Couples therapy is my passion, as well.
It’s also important to understand how your therapist will work with you.. Will you be assigned homework? What will be expected of you? If you’re seeking therapy for a specific problem, inquire how they would approach it. In my sessions, I ask you to bring a notebook or provide one and yes, there is homework individualized for you.
- Is Contact Allowed In-Between Sessions?
If it’s important to you to be able to call, email or text your therapist with questions or concerns in-between sessions, ask what their policy is. Some therapists may only allow contact in case of emergency. If this is the case, you’ll want to be sure to ask what constitutes an emergency.
Some therapists may read email messages or listen to voicemails but will not respond, while others will reply or call you back. Understanding your potential therapist’s policy for contact between sessions is essential to ensure you are both a good fit for each other.
I use messaging in my secure portal and many of my patients write me frequently and I respond with helpful guidance.
- What Happens if You Have an Emergency?
Once you know what constitutes an emergency, you’ll want to know how they help you handle one. Some therapists will allow you to call them at home or at their office while others will use an answering service that will get a message to them. Still, others may ask you to all a crisis line or go to the hospital.
In my practice, I have developed individual plans for crisis, especially for those who have suicidal tendencies. Being able to contact me has averted suicidal actions, so I do encourage anyone to call me once they are actively in therapy with me.
- How Much Experience Do You Have Treating People Like Me?
You wouldn’t hire a hairdresser to fix your leaky faucet, so why hire a therapist who doesn’t have experience treating people with issues similar to yours. Therapists often specialize in specific areas and become experts on that particular treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask this question to ensure you’re getting the best therapist for your needs.
If they don’t specialize in what you’re looking for, ask if they have any references that do. Often, therapists will refer you out anyway, if they feel that a colleague would be a better fit for you.
Finding the right therapist for you may take some time, but the search will be worthwhile.
Ready to get to work?
Take that first step and contact a therapist in your area!
If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment and you are nearby, contact me today. You may want to first read about EMDR and my other specialty – couples therapy – on my website. I love working with couples in longer sessions, as the research suggests.