Hiring a therapist is difficult, for many reasons. In the Central Valley, it is difficult to even find someone sometimes! It takes courage to call or email a therapist in the first place, and trying to find who is accepting new patients, can work with your schedule, and who you can afford seems almost impossible. So why even write this? Because, in my opinion, it is better to wait a few weeks to be with the right therapist, than to start with a therapist who is not a good fit for you, and then have things fall apart. What are some questions you should ask?
1. It is important that you ask about insurance and/or cash pay rates. Many years ago, I think that I inadvertently offended someone by making a comment about how just because someone takes your insurance does not make them competent. I should have finished the sentence. The truth is that just because someone does not take your insurance does not make them competent, however finances will absolutely play a role in your treatment, and so it should be one of the questions you ask. If it will not work for you financially, then it is not necessarily “worth it” to go on with other questions.
2. You need to ask about the therapist’s flexibility. If you need an evening appointment, but the therapist does not have any open, or does not offer those, it might be tempting to just get in and go in during the day, just to make it in. However, if that is not going to work for you long term, the likelihood that the therapist will suddenly have a bunch of other openings is slim to none, and then you have to decide what to do, after already forming a bond with this therapist.
3. Ask the therapist about their experience, and share with them what is going on for you. For the most part, “most therapists” can work with a variety of issues. It is important, however, that the therapist have some experience working with your struggle or problem. For example, children or adults with eating disorders or attachment issues should be treated by people who have very specific experience and training in those issues. If the therapist does not feel confident in treating your particular issue, it is important that you decide if that person is the right person for you.
4. Ask about what type of therapeutic strategies or theories the therapist uses. If you are looking for someone who will provide quiet and passive emotional support, you want to make sure that this new therapist does that. If you are looking for a therapist who is more involved, and gives you specific skills, strategies, or things to do, you want to make sure that the therapist is able to meet those needs. If you are not familiar with the type of therapy that the therapist says that they use, do some research to see if it might work for you.
At the end of the day, therapy is a living and breathing process. A therapist might meet all of your requests and requirements, but when you meet with them in person, you do not feel the connection with them. The important part about therapy is making it work for you. If you do not feel connected with the therapist, consider meeting with another therapist or trying a different route. If you are not making the progress you want to make, ask the therapist for support. Sometimes you are making progress, and just do not know it, at other times your hope and expectation for a certain level of progress might not be reasonable from a therapeutic standpoint, and they can reassure you what is happening. It is always important for you to talk with the therapist before terminating their services, as you want to give them the opportunity to resolve a problem if there is one. And if the therapist can not answer the questions that you have for them, then you have to consider whether or not that is a good match for you, your family, or your children.
Therapy is a tool that you can use to address the issues that you are struggling with. It is not just for those who are “mentally ill” or who have “big problems,” it is for people who want to improve their overall life experience. Consider therapy today, it is a great day to start something new and get to your best life.