Meeting with a therapist for the first time can feel nerve-wracking and overwhelming. But there are ways to make this process feel less intimidating. Before committing to a regular schedule, there are 4 questions you may want to consider knowing the answers to. These questions can typically be answered in an initial phone consultation with your potential therapist.
Question #1: What Type of Therapy Do You Offer?
Most therapists specialize in a particular kind of therapy. This may include CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), Gestalt, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Psychodynamic, or Family Systems. Each of these approaches will inform how that therapist works and 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. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an approach that looks at the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It can provide you with practical tools and coping mechanisms to re-evaluate how you think and react to certain situations.
Different types of therapies provide different ways of treating whatever issue you may want to address. At Cohesive Therapy NYC, we believe a combination of therapies is oftentimes the best form of treatment. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” when it comes to emotional and psychological health.
In addition to knowing what kind of therapy is practiced, ask how active your therapist will be in your treatment.
For instance, some therapists take a more active role in therapy. They will help you reframe the way you perceive your experiences, provide psychoeducation, and teach you concrete tools for at-home practice.
Other therapists are more passive and quiet during therapy sessions, and let you do most of the talking. Depending on your personality and what you are looking for, this can be very important to know before starting treatment.
It’s also important to understand how your therapist will work with you each week. Will you be assigned “homework” in order to practice the skills that you are learning? Or is the therapist that you are seeking more exploratory in practice? If you’re seeking therapy for a specific problem, ask your therapist questions about how they would approach it.
Question #2: 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 about their policy.
Some therapists may read messages or listen to voicemails but will not respond in order to keep professional boundaries. Though, they may discuss your question at the next session. Others will reply or call you back as soon as they are able to.
Understanding your potential therapist’s policy for contact between sessions is essential in determining whether you’re a good match.
Question #3: What Happens if You Have an Emergency?
Sometimes, we feel emotionally triggered, or experience a panic attack in out of the ordinary circumstances. You might feel that calling your therapist is just what you need.
The first and most important thing to note is that, if you are experiencing an emergency, you should always first contact 911 for assistance.
Some therapists allow you to call them at their office, but many are not available to assist you immediately, due to scheduled clients. Therapists who are not able to help during a crisis will often work with you on making a safety plan so that you have steps to take in an emergency if needed.
Some therapists may only allow contact in case of an emergency. If this is the case, you’ll want to be sure to ask what constitutes an emergency. You can expect that there are likely to be boundaries and expectations set in place in order to ensure that you have a “plan b” if you are unable to contact your therapist.
In most cases, contact in between sessions is not encouraged. But, in certain therapies, it is not only allowed, it is discussed upfront and encouraged if and when needed (with boundaries, of course).
Question #4: What Experience Do You Have Treating People Like Me?
Therapists often specialize in specific areas and become experts on that particular treatment. Even if they aren’t technically specialists, they may have worked with others who are going through something similar to you. It is helpful 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. In addition to learning about a therapist’s experience, specialties, and approach, it is important to find someone you’re comfortable with. The relationship and trust you build with your therapist will be an incredibly vital part of the work you do.