When you're starting therapy or switching to a new therapist, you're entitled to shop around until you find someone who is the perfect fit. While it may take a few sessions to tell if you really vibe with a therapist, there are a few questions to ask a therapist to make sure you're headed down the right path. During Well+Good's 2021 Trends launch event, writer, wellness coach, and licensed therapist Minaa B., LMSW, shared that you should seek a consultation and use that time as a two-way interview.
"During the consultation phase, the same way the therapist is interviewing you, and they're going to ask you why are you seeking services? Having ever done services before?" says Minaa. "You can also ask your therapist questions." She says consultations may be free or have a cost, just be sure to double-check before you book one.
Throughout your search for a therapist, she says it's best to not put all of your eggs in one basket.
"Try to find at least two to three people that you think will be a good fit based off their profile, based off the things that you read about them," she says. "Maybe they have a website, maybe they have testimonials that they have. And just try to have at least two to three people that you might want to contact."
To help you figure out whether a therapist is a good fit sooner rather than later, Minaa shares three questions to ask before you settle.
3 questions to ask a therapist (and yourself) before moving forward
1) What is their history in treating patients with whatever you’re struggling with?
All therapists have different specialties, and you want to ensure that a therapist is equipped to treat you.
"So you might say, 'I'm struggling with racial trauma. I'm somebody who has been a victim of racial trauma, and I want to come into this space to overheal those racial wounds, and the intergenerational trauma I'm dealing with,'" says Minaa. "You want to ask that therapist, 'What is your experience in treating this issue?'"
Additionally, you'll want to learn a bit about their method and ask how they would actually go about treating this issue.
"You might have a therapist who uses primarily cognitive-behavioral therapy," says Minaa. "They might utilize dialectic behavioral therapy, or their style might be eclectic where they just take on a different modality based off the client's needs. But if you're not used to that jargon, you want that therapist to break it down for you."
2) How much does a session cost?
Before your first session, you'll want to know the practical details: How long is a session? What is a session like? How much does it cost? You'll need to know the exact cost and if they accept your insurance. If it seems like you may not be able to afford it, ask if they offer a sliding scale.
"A sliding scale is basically for people who cannot afford the full price of a session. The average out-of-pocket session, if you are seeing a therapist in private practice, can range from $150 up to $300 for a 45-minute session," says Minaa. "If a therapist is offering a sliding scale, they may reduce their $150 session to maybe $75 or $50. This is based off your financial need. So sometimes the therapist may ask, 'Are you employed? Are you unemployed? How much are you making?'"
3) Ask yourself: Am I just being polite or do I feel like this is really a fit?
Whether you've just had your initial consultation or the tenth session, you're never obligated to stay with a therapist.
"As therapists, we are used to people coming and going. It is our job to sit in discomfort," says Minaa. "And so if you don't like our services, it is okay to tell us. We are most likely used to hearing that because, at the end of the day, we cannot service everyone."
Your therapist may also realize that you'd be better off with someone else.
"We might be in positions where we take on a client and then we just realize, 'Oh, this is actually not a good fit. I'm going to refer you to someone else who may be a better fit for you based off the needs that you have in therapy,'" she says. "So don't feel obligated to just stick with one person, be comfortable with just saying, 'You know what? I think I'm going to move on.'"
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