Starting therapy, especially if this is new to you, may seem overwhelming. A way to make it more comfortable is to ask questions about the counseling process. Some clinics and counselors may be willing to talk to you over the phone before the first session or meet with you for a short intake. However, most therapists will just meet with you at the first appointment and answer any questions at that time. But the following questions that can easily be asked when you call to make an appointment include:
- What does the therapist specialize in? You need to ask this in order to make sure your therapist specializes in the issues you are having.
- What degree does my therapist have? There are numerous types of therapists from psychologists, social workers, counselors, marriage and family counselors, psychiatrists (medical doctors who can prescribe medications), and others.
- How long is the session? Typical individual sessions last 50 minutes but this will vary by the therapist and type of therapy utilized. Group therapy usually lasts 1 ½ hours. Specific types of therapies such as DBT may include group and an individual therapist.
- Do you take my insurance and if not, how much is the fee for counseling? Most counselors take some insurances but you may need to check your insurance company for a listing or you can call the specific counselor/clinic to check this. Some therapists will use a sliding-fee scale based on your income but most do not. However, don’t be hesitant to ask as some counselors may carry a few clients with minimal income as a way to give back.
Still other questions when starting therapy can be addressed to the therapist. Because different professions have varying codes of ethics and state guidelines which may vary in some ways, you need to be sure to ask some of these following questions. These may include:
- Can you tell me more about your education and training? How long have you been a therapist?
- Are you available 24/7 and if not, where do I get help in an emergency?
- What type of treatment do you use?
- Have you treated a lot of people with my condition and have you been able to help them?
- What is your style of work? Are you laid-back, do you make me do homework, will you confront me, and will you stick by me when things get rough?
- Do you give advice? Must I take your advice?
- Can you tell me about an average session?
- What will you do if I need to be hospitalized for my psychiatric issues?
- What information is confidential? Is everything I tell you confidential?
- What happens if we disagree or I have a grievance?
- What happens if we have different values and beliefs?
- What happens if I decide we don’t fit or if I decide to quit therapy?
- Can we be friends? How about after I quit seeing you?
- How will I know when I’m done needing therapy?
- Will you be willing to see me after I decide to quit therapy and need to come at a later time?
- Do you talk to anyone else about my case?
While you will not need to ask all of these questions as many of them may be answered upon your first session, this list is a helpful guideline for concerns you may have when starting therapy or counseling, or even if you’ve been in therapy in the past. Therapy can provide lifelong learning and healing.