Questions for your therapy consultation
You spend months thinking about starting therapy. The search for a therapist is time consuming and unsatisfying. There are false starts and missed connections. Finally, you find a therapist that can work. Reading their profile, you find thoughts and phrases you can relate to, and their approach to therapy speaks to you.
Now it’s time to reach out to the therapist.
EMAIL THE THERAPIST
Your time is precious. Therapists are busy. Email for both of you is the easiest way to communicate. Make sure to clearly address the following in your email:
Scheduling - Let the therapist know what days and times are convenient for your weekly therapy appointment.
Fees - Ask the therapist’s per session fee.
Insurance - See if the therapists accepts your insurance.
Location - Confirm the therapists location.
If one of these conditions is not going to work for you, then it’s best to move on. You can ask for a referral.
Otherwise, if you can make these 4 things work, ask to set up an initial consultation phone call.
YOUR CONSULTATION PHONE CALL
The following is not intended to be a script. These are just some guideposts to help you along the way. Every call with a therapist will go in a different direction. Many therapists will start off with some version of “So why are you calling? What’s been going on?” In every case, this is supposed to be a fluid introductory conversation. Expect the call to take no more than 15 minutes. Find a comfortable time and place, and don’t feel rushed.
CAN WE CONFIRM THE FOLLOWING?
When talking with the therapist on the phone, confirm the information in the email.
Scheduling - The date and time needs to work on a weekly basis. If not, try and find a weekly day and time that works for you both. If scheduling doesn’t work, then ask for a referral. Make sure you can consistently attend every week, and some therapists have a cancelation fee.
Fees - What does the therapist charge for a weekly session? What payment do they accept? Some therapists have a sliding scale depending on your financial situation. You should be open and transparent about your comfort with fees. Consider this to be a 12 week minimum commitment. Ask about the therapists cancelation policy.
Insurance - Most therapists will not deal with your insurance. They leave the whole headache up to you (We take care of this for you at Therapists of New York!). It is to your benefit to contact your insurance carrier to understand your benefits. For a complete guide to insurance. Click Here.
Location - Get clarity on the following: Address; nearest subway, bus, or parking lot.
TALK ABOUT WHY YOU ARE SEEKING THERAPY.
After the basics, it’s now time to talk about why you are calling. This is just a high level overview to describe feelings, recent experiences or troubling behavioral patterns. There’s no need to analyze the feeling of loss you experienced in kindergarten when your left your lunch box on the school bus. This is a big picture conversation.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIALIZATIONS?
Many therapists are generalists. They see all types of patients with various treatment goals. Yet most also have one or more specialties that they are extra suited to treat. These specialties may range from eating disorders, to addiction, to couples. Ask about specialites, especially if you have specific issues you want to work on in therapy.
DO YOU HAVE A STYLE?
Thankfully, therapy is not one size fits all. There are different styles of therapy which have grown out of theories of thoughts, emotions, and behavior. While some therapists can move between styles, most have a default where they are comfortable. Ask what their preferred style of therapy is, and how that looks in a session. Ask yourself if their style is what you have in mind, and if you think it will be helpful.
HOW DO YOU WORK?
There are many ways to answer this questions. They may focus on actionable goals or support or gaining a deeper understanding of yourself. Their response can help you to gauge if you are a good fit. Does their answer feel like they are aligned with your goals?
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE LENGTH OF TREATMENT WILL BE?
Therapy takes time. It’s not as simple as take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning. At the most basic level, you and your therapist need to do a little cerebral or behavioral rewiring. This takes time to be effective. This takes time to be effective. Research shows that 26 sessions seems to be a sweet spot. Many people find that they like therapy as a safe place they can open up and talk, and choose to stay in therapy for years.
HOW LONG IS A SESSION?
Most therapy session run between 45 and 50 minutes. Confirm with your therapist. Couples or family sessions are usually 60 minutes.
SET UP YOUR WEEKLY APPOINTMENT
If you’re satisfied with the conversation, then set up a weekly appointment. Find out about the following to ease into your first meeting: What Floor is the office on; Stairs or Elevator; Doorman; Sign In; Access code; Intercom buzzer; Waiting Room; Do I knock or wait for the therapist to come and get me? Get there a bit early sit back, breathe deeply, and relax.