Taking steps to find the right therapist is essential before moving forward with individual therapy. In part, this is because the connection you share with your therapist becomes the central dynamic of the experience. You can begin by asking yourself some questions about what you hope to resolve, as well as what you expect from therapy. This early inventory can help clarify what you intend to work on, and the changes you’re ready to make.
What is a Consultation?
When you schedule a consultation with a new therapist, it’s not a therapeutic deep dive. It’s actually an informal way to explore if you’re a good match. Consults are usually fairly brief, but this time allows you to ask questions and get a sense for a therapist’s approach to individual therapy.
Keep in mind that there’s a wide range of modalities when it comes to counseling, and no two therapists are exactly alike in their approach. What’s important is that you feel comfortable during this initial meet and greet. The qualities you most value in a therapist will be unique to you, but we all need empathy. A good therapist should be curious about your perceptions, but also willing to challenge you to grow.
Questions to Ask a New Therapist
Be sure to consider what you’d like to ask a new therapist before your first meeting. While some people may care solely about academic achievements, others may have more questions about a therapist’s personal life experiences. It’s not usual for someone to decide to become a therapist because they overcame a struggle in their own life and want to help others. For example, if you happen to be seeking substance abuse treatment, knowing that a therapist understands your pain on a personal level, would likely influence your decision.
Beliefs and values are on the table, too, such as whether or not a therapist is LGBTQ affirming and competent. You should feel free to ask questions that matter to you, but that doesn’t mean a therapist will necessarily be willing to openly talk about all aspects of their own life. Everyone needs to establish their own boundaries.
Here are a few basic things you may want to ask:
- Are you licensed?
- What is your educational background?
- How long have you been seeing clients?
- Can you describe how you would approach our sessions?
- What kind of experience do you have with the issues I’m struggling with?
- Have you experienced my issue in your own life?
- How often would we meet?
- Can you explain the treatment styles you prefer?
- Are you able to bill my insurance?
This is similar to a casual interview process. There are times when therapy can be painful to work through, so consider if this is someone you want on the journey through your internal landscape. Can you really talk to this person?
An initial consultation also provides the therapist with a sense of your main issues and whether or not they feel able to treat you. In fact, they have an ethical duty to refer you to another clinician if they don’t feel they’re the best fit for your individual therapy sessions.
After the Consultation
Take some time to evaluate how you feel about the consultation. Of course, you don’t need to choose the first therapist you meet with. Ask yourself if the appointment gave you a sense that change is possible. If you found yourself counting down the minutes, or just didn’t feel like there was a good rapport, you’ll want to keep looking. You may decide to schedule two or three consultations before making up your mind about the best fit.
A Collaborative Experience
Remember that therapy is a collaborative experience, but some therapists take a more active or passive role. Do you want a therapist who guides sessions and asks you questions, or would you prefer to direct the conversation? It may take some time to decide if a match is really right for you, and if the individual therapy sessions are helpful.
If you’ve been seeing a therapist for a while and you’re beginning to wonder if you’re in the right place, here are some signs that you need to reevaluate:
- Your therapist jumps to conclusions instead of really listening
- They’re always validating but never challenge you, or vice versa
- Sessions have become shallow check-ins
- You feel judged by the therapist
- They’re defensive about feedback
Fortunately, it’s becoming more common for insurance companies to cover mental health services. But if you have health insurance, you may need to make a couple of phone calls to learn more about your benefits, or look over the handbook for more information. Some provider’s require a referral from your doctor. You may also find that your coverage is limited to in-network therapists. Be sure to review how many sessions are allowed under your insurance plan, as well as any out-of-pocket expense so you know what to expect.
A good therapist will be able to tune into your needs, but it also helps to know what you want to achieve through counseling. Beginning with an outcome in mind is a little like drawing a roadmap for where you want to go. Knowing what you’d like to focus on during your individual therapy sessions can also help you find the right specialist. Do you have a hard time reflecting on your emotions? Or are you someone who needs to think less and take more actionable steps?
Schedule an Individual Therapy Consult
When you’re ready to make life changes, individual therapy can be a transformative process. No matter what you’re struggling with, it’s invaluable to have the right therapist by your side. Really, we could all benefit from some extra support from time to time. Do you have questions? Let’s talk about what you hope to get out of counseling. Schedule a meet and greet with Brett Beaver, LMFT by calling (925) 324-4514. You can also learn more about Brett and his background by clicking this link.