You’ve decided that it is time to seek some professional help and you’ve started the process of looking for a clinician but how do you know if you guys will work together well. A lot of the frustration people face when deciding to begin the counseling journey is feeling like they can’t or don’t connect with their clinician. With so many misconceptions about what therapy is and isn’t, the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and an individual’s own apprehensions about whether therapy will be of any benefit, getting to a place of comfort and trust can and should take some time. However, before you start your journey towards understanding of self, there are some questions you can ask your potential clinician before deciding to move into a working relationship. Most clinicians will offer free 15 to 30-minute consultations so that you can ask some clarifying questions before deciding if you want to become their client. So, what questions should you ask?
Some of your initial and basic questions may include do they accept your insurance, what is their hourly rate, do they offer a sliding scale, what methods of payment they accept, and what to expect during your first session.
Ask about their education and licensure status. Most clinicians should have at minimum a master’s degree in their field whether it’s clinical psychology, social work, community counseling, or addictions counseling. They should also hold a license from your state’s behavioral health licensing board. You may also inquire about any professional organizations they are a member of as well.
Ask about any specialties they are trained or certified in as it pertains to why you’re seeking help. If you’re needing assistance with an eating disorder, you want somebody who has knowledge and experience with that issue. If they don’t have experience, don’t hesitate to ask if they can provide you with referrals.
Ask how they approach working with clients. Most clinicians have specific theories or frameworks they work from which informs what your sessions would look like and any outside work they may ask you to complete. This also applies to how you all will collaborate on creating goals for your time in therapy and how you’ll re-evaluate them and determine success.
If you subscribe to a specific faith or are part of a marginalized group, ask about their knowledge and experience working with individuals who hold that identity.
Ask how long a session is, how often they anticipate wanting to see you (weekly, biweekly, monthly) and for how long (6 months, a year)?
Again, this is not an exhaustive list of questions nor does it guarantee that their answers will mean you guys will be the best fit. However, in the short time offered for a consultation, it should help illuminate whether you can see yourself building a relationship with this individual. Building rapport takes time especially in such an intimate relationship like the one between therapist and client so be patient and ask questions whenever you feel uneasy. It may take a couple clinicians before you find someone who is the best fit, so if you feel discouraged or defeated in your search, hold on to the courage you had when you first decided to seek help and know that eventually you’ll find your match!
Until next time, xoxo – Ade!