his World Mental Health Day, we want to not only highlight the importance of mental healthcare but also celebrate the growth in mental health awareness. While we still have a long way to go, we recognize that more and more people are embracing the importance of prioritizing their mental health and seeking therapy. With this in mind, we’d like to empower our community with the important questions to ask a therapist in order to find the best one and get the best out of your therapy journey.
When it comes to choosing a life partner, most people take it seriously enough to know they won’t just hitchhike into a random individual’s car because they need a ride. The same goes for choosing a therapist. You have to ask your new therapist a set of strategic questions before deciding they are “The One.”
Taking the bold step to sign up for therapy to address your mental issue is a defining moment in life and should be encouraged. You might be attempting therapy for the first time or want to switch therapists, but would need a bit of convincing before you commit to this new phase of life. It is important not to jump into the arms of a therapist, because they were referred to you by a loved one or have discounts. Rather be intentional about who you give access to in your life.
Ask your new therapist these questions to maximize the experience…
#1. What are your qualifications/training?
A professional therapist shouldn’t feel offended by this question. Anyone who prioritizes mental health would want to know what they are getting into and if you’re qualified to handle their issues. When choosing a new therapist, don’t make it an emotional quest. Dot your Is and cross your Ts. Although lots of people say the certificate is a mere paper, you’d need qualification proof to feel safe and confident about your therapist. It’s also in your best interest to deal with only licensed therapists. While certifications are beneficial, dig in to find out what type of license the therapist has.
#2. What is your approach to therapy?
Most therapists have their unique philosophical approach to therapy. From Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to practicing mindfulness, knowing what approach your therapist uses is helpful knowledge. While you might not be an expert in mental health issues, knowing your therapist’s approach could help you make better commitment decisions.
Some therapists take a direct approach, while others choose to guide you through a process. No approach is bad or good, it depends on your needs and preference. Although therapists have a policy restricting them from imposing their religious views, it could be important to know how these views might affect their therapy styles.
#3. Would you place me on medications permanently?
If you have concerns about medications, this is a great time to ask. Most therapists combine behavioral therapy with medications. Discuss your reservations but be open to the process. After a series of questions, your therapist can decide if you’d be popping pills or not. Some of the biggest fears of a patient are not just being on medications, but permanently stringing them along. If you have this issue, ask your new therapist if you’d be on medications permanently. This also depends on your mental condition and its phase.
#4. What’s the estimated duration?
To be honest, therapy time depends on various factors, and sometimes, your therapist won’t be able to project off the top of their heads. What they can do is go through a proposed plan with you, and explain the process and possible reasons for extending the process. This should leave you with a time frame.
#5. Can I trust you with my secrets?
There are a few non-negotiable questions to ask your new therapist, one of which is: “would what we say remain between us?” No one wants a shrink with a loose tongue who would spread your secrets like wildfire. A professional therapist would reassure you that your contract includes confidentiality unless in cases of danger. These could include reporting suicidal attempts and physical or sexual abuse.
#6. What’s your availability policy for a crisis?
Let’s face it, humans would always have random emergencies, but remember that crisis is subjective. Undressing for circumcision (therapy) can become overwhelming, or you have a midnight mental breakdown or mental episode. You should ask your new therapist what they think about emergencies and how best to approach them.
While working up an emergency plan with you, understand that therapists need boundaries with their patients to avoid being called up 24/7 for trivial issues that could have otherwise been scheduled. When a therapist accesses your condition, they can determine if you’re a high or low-risk patient. This would significantly determine their availability.
#7. Are we going to have the money talk?
Before you commit, ask your new therapist how much the sessions cost, if they accept insurance, and their cancellation policies. It would be an unsettling feeling to realize your therapist charges for no-shows later in therapy. Lay the cards on the table early to avoid last-minute surprises and altercations. There could be days when you’re stuck in traffic or an emergency pops up. It is paramount to know what to expect beforehand.
#8. Is therapy virtual or physical?
Although the lockdowns have been lifted, COVID-19 has encouraged teletherapy. If you’re required to have in-person therapy, ask your new therapist about their safety plans for all parties involved. As a therapist, the safety of your client is a priority. If you’re going to hold physical meetings, strict safety measures should be in place.
#9. What would you also require of me?
It would be a healthier journey if both parties knew what was expected of them during this process. Each therapist might expect certain feedback from their patients. This would prevent undue pressure and deflate expectations in the long run.
#10. Do we tick off all the boxes together?
Compatibility is a trait that can’t be over-emphasized during therapy. Give your potential go-to therapist enough information about you to ensure you are both a great fit. Ask your new therapist if your age, race, sexuality, or religion would affect the process.
Featured image: Drazen Zigic/iStock
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