10 Questions to Ask Your Potential Therapist

10 Questions to Ask Your Potential Therapist

By Andrea Lacey, Guest Contributer

Reviewed and edited by Laura Silverstein

Whether you’re seeking to improve your well-being, enhance your relationships, or navigate the complexities of life, the right professional can make all the difference. Asking the right questions will help you find the best fit and help you know wha to expect. 

Therefore, to ensure you embark on this path confidently, having a set of thoughtful questions ready can help you discern if a potential therapist aligns with your goals, values, and needs. Here’s a list of 10 recommended questions to ask your potential therapist.

Question #1: Do you offer in-person and online sessions?

A therapist offering in-person and online sessions caters to a wide range of preferences and needs, making therapy more accessible to everyone. In-person sessions can provide a traditional, face-to-face therapeutic experience, which some find essential for building a strong rapport with their therapist. The therapist holds such sessions in a secure and private environment.

On the other hand, online sessions, conducted via video conferencing platforms, offer flexibility and convenience, especially if you have a busy schedule, mobility issues, or live in remote areas. It allows you to access therapy from the comfort of your own home or any private space, reducing travel time and potentially widening your options for therapists not limited by geographic location.

Question #2: What is your approach to therapy?

A therapist’s approach to therapy encompasses the methods, techniques, and philosophies to address and support your needs. They might integrate multiple approaches to tailor the program to your unique situation, combining elements from different methods. 

It’s important to discuss with your therapist their approach and how it applies to your goals for therapy. This conversation can give you insight into their therapeutic process and help you decide if their style aligns with what you’re looking for, whether you’re seeking support for mental health issues, personal development, relationship challenges, or other concerns.

Question #3: How do you support or involve family members in therapy?

Involving family members in therapy can significantly enhance the therapeutic process, depending on your goals and needs. Therapists may support or involve family members in various ways, from occasional family therapy sessions to discuss and improve communication and relationships to specific strategies aimed at helping family members understand how to provide support outside therapy sessions.

It’s essential to communicate with your therapist about your comfort level and the potential benefits of involving family members in your therapy. The goal is to create a supportive environment that facilitates growth, healing, and positive change for you and your family.

Question #4: What type of therapy do you recommend for my concerns, and is it effective for treating them?

The type of therapy recommended for your concerns largely depends on the issues and your personal goals. Therapists draw from various therapeutic modalities to address different concerns effectively.

For instance, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help in treating anxiety and depression by focusing on altering dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors. On the other hand, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) may be suitable for individuals dealing with emotional regulation or borderline personality disorder, incorporating mindfulness and stress tolerance skills.

It’s crucial to discuss your specific concerns with a therapist, who can then recommend an approach based on their professional assessment and the evidence supporting the effectiveness of various therapies for your particular issues. 

Question #5: What is your policy on cancellations or missed appointments?

Therapists and counseling professionals typically establish clear policies on cancellations or missed appointments to manage their schedules effectively and maintain fairness to all clients. These policies usually specify a timeframe within which you should notify the therapist if you need to cancel or reschedule an appointment, often 24 to 48 hours in advance. Failure to do so might incur a cancellation fee, which could be up to the cost of the session.

Understanding the cancellation policy before starting therapy is crucial. It helps you plan and manage your schedule better, ensuring that you are not financially penalized for missed sessions due to last-minute emergencies or unavoidable conflicts. Always discuss this policy directly with your therapist.

Question #6: Do you collaborate with other professionals in your practice?

Your therapist may work with psychiatrists for medication management, nutritionists for dietary advice, or other specialists like occupational therapists or social workers to provide a holistic approach to your well-being. This multidisciplinary collaboration considers all aspects of your health, offering a more integrated treatment plan.

Question #7: Do I need to prepare for our sessions?

Preparing for therapy sessions can significantly enhance the therapeutic process, making each session more productive and meaningful. The process might vary based on the therapeutic approach and your personal goals. However, your therapist may provide specific guidelines, including any exercises or journaling to be done beforehand. 

Question #8: Will our sessions be confidential, and under what circumstances might you break confidentiality?

Generally, everything discussed in therapy is kept confidential, with a few specific exceptions mandated by law and professional ethics. For instance, if there is an immediate threat of harm to yourself or others. 

Your therapist should explain their confidentiality policy during the consultation or your initial sessions, including these exceptions. 

Question #9: How do you handle emergencies or crises outside scheduled sessions?

Therapists typically have specific guidelines and procedures for such situations, which they communicate early. These protocols may include providing you with contact information for crisis hotlines, instructions for contacting the therapist directly during off-hours in urgent situations, or referrals to local emergency services or mental health crisis teams.

For non-life-threatening situations that still require immediate attention, some therapists may offer the possibility of emergency sessions, either in person or through telehealth services. However, it’s essential to understand that they may have limited ability to provide immediate response outside of regular hours. 

Hence, asking about emergency and crisis handling upfront allows you to understand the level of support available and what steps to follow when immediate help is needed.

Question #10: What are your session fees, and what is your payment policy?

This question helps you budget for your sessions and ensures there are no surprises down the line. Ask about the payment policy, including when payment is due (e.g., at the time of service or invoiced monthly) and what forms of payment the therapist accepts.

If you prefer using your coverage instead of making payments through Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flex Spending Accounts (FSAs), clarify if they can assist you with reimbursement for out-of-network providers. If they do, you get a monthly receipt to send to your health insurance provider. 

However, it depends on whether you have a PPO vs EPO plan. A PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) plan allows you to visit any healthcare provider without needing a referral, even outside your network, often at a higher out-of-pocket cost but with possible reimbursement. On the other hand, an EPO (Exclusive Provider Organization) plan typically requires you to use doctors and hospitals within the plan’s network, except in an emergency. Further, it may not offer reimbursement for out-of-network services. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask These Questions to Your Potential Therapist

Most psychologists and therapists offer free consultations with the expectation that you will have questions before scheduling your first appointment. It is also fine to ask your questions to more than one therapist until you find the clinician you feel most comfortable with.

Asking the right questions before beginning therapy is essential for establishing trust and clarity. They ensure the process aligns with your personal and financial needs but also pave the way for a successful and fulfilling journey towards well-being.

Not Ready to Make the Call?

If you need a little more time before scheduling your free consultation here are some articles and free resources to explore:

Depression: What Are the Symptoms of Depression?

Anxiety: Anxiety Treatment 

Free Relationship Resources

This article was written by guest contributer Andrea Lacey, and reviewed and edited by Laura Silverstein, LCSW.