The decision to begin therapy marks the beginning of a significant investment in one’s quality of life and relationships.
Finding the right therapist is a highly personal decision, and you’ll want to find someone with whom you have a good fit. Below are a variety of important questions that may assist you in finding the right therapist. Any good therapist should be comfortable discussing these questions with you.
- What questions should I ask a potential therapist?
- How should I evaluate the therapist?
- What to look for in a couples therapist?
What Questions Should I ask a potential therapist?
Many people are hesitant to ask a doctor questions about their background or experience. Remember you are the consumer and any competent professional should welcome questions or concerns regarding their expertise or the therapy process. Most therapists offer initial consultations for a set fee. Use this time as an opportunity to find out about the therapist, talk about your goals and reasons for pursuing therapy, and ask for their assessment of your situation and how they might help you. Through this process, you’ll decide whether this therapist is someone with whom you feel comfortable and confident.
Below are some specific questions you may wish to ask over the phone or in a consultation:
- What is your education, training, and background?
- Are you licensed or certified by your professional board?
- What is your approach to therapy?
- How much of your caseload is treating my kind of problem?
- How long are appointments, how often should I see you, and how long does therapy generally take for my kind of problem?
- Are you available for emergency consultation if I experience a crisis?
- What are your policies regarding confidentiality (especially re: couples therapy, family therapy, and treatment of a minor)?
- What is your assessment of me and my situation?
- If you formulate a specific diagnosis, will you inform me?
- What are your views on (mention any specific issue, such as gender roles, marriage and divorce, religion, etc., that is important to you)?
- For couples and family therapy, in particular - Are you married? Do you have any children?
- Are there any potential risks to therapy?
- What advice do you give clients about getting the most from their therapy experience?
- What are your fees and financial policies (charges for telephone calls between sessions, cancellations, missed appointments)?
- Do you take insurance?
How should I evaluate the Therapist?
In general, your therapist should have professional credentials including specialized training in the area of your problem.
In order to work well with you, a therapist should be quite experienced with the type of problem you are trying to resolve .
Connection and “Good Fit”
Research shows that the quality of the therapeutic relationship is a primary factor in making therapy successful. You should feel comfortable with the therapist you select and sense that he/she is competent and prepared to help you achieve your goals.
A good therapist should be warm and friendly and may share some relevant details about his own life, but he should never spend the session discussing his own personal issues.
Response to Feedback
A good therapist gives straightforward answers to direct questions, welcomes client feedback and takes complaints seriously.
A good clinician should be able to give you an initial assessment that captures your problem or dilemma, sheds some interesting light on factors that may be contributing to the problem, and suggests important steps that will likely be necessary in resolving these problems and helping you achieve your goals.
Clarity about Goals
A good therapist will discuss the specific goals for therapy with you.
What to look for in a Couples Therapist?
Most people don't know what to expect of a competent couples therapist. Not all professionals who do couples therapy have had specialized advanced training in the field nor does their practice focus primarily on couples and families.
Here are some qualities and actions that researchers have found to promote effective marital therapy:
- The therapist is warm and nonjudgmental.
- The therapist actively tries to help your marriage and communicates realistic hope that you can solve your marital problems.
- The therapist is active in structuring the session.
- The therapist offers perspectives for you to better understand the sources of your problems.
- The therapist challenges each of you to look at your contributions to the problems.
- The therapist suggest specific strategies for changing your relationship, and coaches you on how to use them.
- The therapist is alert to issues such as depression, substance use and medical illness that might be influencing your marital problems.
- The therapist does not take sides.
- The therapist should not permit you and your spouse to talk over each other or speak for the other person.
- The therapist should not let you engage in destructive angry exchanges during the session.
- Although the therapist may explore how your family-of-origin backgrounds influence your problems, the focus is on how to deal with your current marital problems rather than just on insight into how you developed these problems.
- The therapist does not assume that there are certain ways that men and women should behave according to their gender in marriage.
The therapist should not suggest that you get divorced
Adapted from William J. Doherty, Take Back Your Marriage: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart. New York: Guilford Press, 2001.