Questions to Ask a Therapist, Counselor or Psychologist

So you found a therapist who you think might be right for you. What questions should you ask to make sure they are the right fit for your needs?  What is appropriate to say or not say during the initial phone consultation?

 

When you finally decide to call a therapist, you most likely are feeling a little anxious about this initial phone call. I know when people finally decide they need to see a therapist; they have a lot going on and sometimes don’t know where to start. That is okay. The therapist will help guide you through this process. I personally try to make the intake phone call and first appointment as painless as possible because I know the anxiety that comes with the process of starting counseling. Before the initial phone call, I recommend getting some clarity on what you’re hoping to get out of counseling. For example, you may want to find better ways to communicate with your spouse or a significant relationship, you may want to get clarity on why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling, or maybe you realized something from your past keeps coming up and it’s time to deal with it once and for all. Whatever is going on, try to keep the description brief in the initial phone call without going into too much detail. There are a few reasons I recommend brevity; one is that you are not yet a client, so ethically this is tricky for them and they are usually not taking notes. Two, this really should be a phone call to see if you and the therapist will be a good fit, not a mini counseling session. Here are a few example questions you may want to ask during the initial phone conversation, you don’t have to ask all of them, just pick the ones that are right for you.

 

How long can I expect to be in treatment? And how often should I expect to come?

Treatment times will vary based on the reason for you seeking counseling in the first place. I typically recommend people commit to 6-weeks of weekly sessions. I find that this gives people enough time to start making progress and feel like they are gaining traction on the original issue that brought them in. There are some exceptions to this, such as a history of trauma. It is my opinion that the job of a therapist is to work themselves out of a job with you! Counseling should be a safe place for you to get back a sense of control in your life and bring you healing, not a lifelong commitment. I also recommend people phase out of treatment rather than stopping abruptly. So, after that initial 6-weeks of weekly sessions, I move people to ever other week, then every 3 weeks then once a month. And I have some clients who like to come see me once a month as part of their own self-care, just as they would for getting a massage or a haircut.

 

How long are the sessions?

Most therapists have a set amount of time they spend with each client. The billing codes allow therapists to choose from the following: 30 minutes, 45 minutes and 60 minutes. Many therapists allow several minutes between sessions to take care of billing, writing notes or even returning phone calls. So keep in mind that even though their appointments may be scheduled on the hour, that doesn’t necessarily mean that is your entire appointment time. I schedule 50 minute appointments so I can have a quick break in between sessions and be prepared for the next client.

 

Do you want to see one or both of us, or each family member?

Depending on the type of counseling you are seeking, you will want to know who is expected to be at that first appointment. For example, I work a lot with children and adolescents. I like to see the parents and child in that first session and then I work individually with the child in the following sessions. If you are seeking couples counseling, some counselors want to see one couple person for half the time and then the spouse for the other half, at least initially. It varies from counselor to counselor so be sure to ask.

 

Do you give homework outside of session?

There are many therapists who do give homework and just as many who don’t. If the sound of homework makes you anxious since you haven’t had it since you were a Junior in High School, then you’ll want to ask! Some therapists find it helpful to have people working on a particular skill in between sessions, and some find that many times people do the work themselves. There really is no right or wrong answer, it is really what you and the therapist find most helpful to your healing.

 

What is your policy on seeing family members?

This is one of the questions I get asked most often, usually after I have seen a parent for several sessions. I will see people from the same family, if I will be a good fit for both of us. Since I see children and teens, often times, parents find it helpful if I work with their child, since I am already familiar with what is going on in the home. I make it really clear that I don’t share things I learn in each other’s sessions with the other person. So, if mom tells me something about the child in her individual, I don’t question the child about that incident unless the mom share it with me again in front of the child. Each individual session is just that, individual. Occasionally I will get a spouse who wants to start seeing me for individual and then switch to couples counseling when they’re ready. I don’t do couples counseling, so I always make it clear in the first phone call that I will refer them on to another therapist when they’re ready.

 

I hope this helps you find the right therapist in Greenwood, IN. If you are still feeling uneasy about this process, please feel free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email lisa@peacefamilycounseling.com. I’d be happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for you. If you are looking for help with depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, you can read more about how I can help at my website peacefamilycounseling.