If you’re thinking of seeing a therapist, here are some important questions to ask…*
What are your areas of expertise? Some therapists have specializations, such as treating children and families…couples…trauma victims…or people dealing with depression or anxiety. Don’t work with someone who doesn’t have experience helping people in your situation.
Are you licensed? For state licensure, an academic degree is required (a doctorate for a psychologist, for example, and a master’s for a social worker), along with testing and supervised clinical work. Ask this question to ensure that the therapist has this important credential.
What style(s) of therapy do you practice? A variety of therapeutic approaches are available, including interpersonal psychotherapy, exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. A prospective therapist should explain the style(s) of therapy that he/she practices and how it could benefit you.
What if I need medication? Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medication such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, but in some states, psychologists with specialized training can do so, too. If the therapist can’t prescribe medication, he may have a relationship with a psychiatrist who can.
What about nondrug approaches that may help me? Some therapists are knowledgeable about complementary therapies, such as dietary supplements, meditation, yoga and massage therapy. Asking this upfront is important if you’d like to be advised on such approaches.
How often will I need to see you and for how long? This depends on many factors, including the severity of the issue that is driving you to seek therapy. Sessions may be scheduled, for example, weekly, twice-weekly or every other week. The duration typically ranges from weeks to months…or even longer. Ask to get a general sense of what to expect.
How much will therapy cost? Insurance coverage varies widely, but many out-of-network therapists offer discounts for those with a limited ability to pay. Don’t be afraid to ask about fees.
Have you had therapy yourself? It might seem like an impolite question, but many people prefer a therapist who has personal experience with the process and knows firsthand what you’re going through.
What criteria do you use to measure the success of treatment? It’s a good idea to know from the onset how the therapist will be assessing your progress.
Are you available in an emergency? If you’re going through a particularly difficult time, you’ll want to know whether you can reach out to your therapist by phone or email—and if not, what options are available.
*If you are considering therapy, ask your physician or other health-care provider for a referral…or try an online therapist locator service such the one offered at GoodTherapy.org.