Meeting with a therapist for the first time can feel frightening and overwhelming. But there are ways to make starting counseling less intimidating. One of those ways is to make sure you’ve chosen a therapist who will be a good fit for you.

Before committing to a regular schedule with a therapist, there are 4 questions you should know the answers to. These questions can typically be answered in an initial phone or in-person consultation with your potential therapist.

  1. What Type of Therapy Do You Offer?

Most therapists specialize in a particular kind of therapy such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), Gestalt, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Psychodynamic, or Family Systems. Each of these schools of thought will inform how that therapist works; how they personally believe change and growth occur.

For example, Psychodynamic therapists pay special attention to past relationships and behaviors to help understand current crises. EMDR is used to heal the symptoms of trauma.

It’s also important to understand how your therapist will work with you each week. Will you be assigned homework? What will be expected of you? If you’re seeking therapy for a specific problem, inquire how they would approach it.

  1. Is Contact Allowed In-Between Sessions?

If it’s important to you to be able to call, email or text your therapist with questions or concerns in-between sessions, ask what their policy is. Some therapists may only allow contact in case of emergency. If this is the case, you’ll want to be sure to ask what constitutes an emergency.

Some therapists may read email messages or listen to voicemails but will not respond, while others will reply or call you back.

Understanding your potential therapists policy for contact between sessions is essential to ensure you are both a good fit for each other.

  1. What Happens if You Have an Emergency?

Once you know what constitutes an emergency, you’ll want to know how they help you handle one. Some therapists will allow you to call them at home or at their office while others will use an answering service that will get a message to them. Still, others may ask you to all a crisis line or go to the hospital.

  1. How Much Experience Do You Have Treating People Like Me?

You wouldn’t hire a hairdresser to fix your leaky faucet, so why hire a therapist who doesn’t have experience treating people with issues similar to yours. Therapists often specialize in specific areas and become experts on that particular treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask this question to ensure you’re getting the best therapist for your needs.

If they don’t specialize in what you’re looking for, ask if they have any references that do. Often, therapists will refer you out anyway, if they feel that a colleague would be a better fit for you.

Finding the right therapist for you may take some time, but the search will be worthwhile.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help and answer any questions you may have.

Priscilla Hurd, LPC, M.Ed.

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