Interview Your Therapist

Like any relationship, sometimes it takes a while to find “the one.”

The therapist-client relationship is a unique bond based on trust, safety, collaboration, and communication. It’s okay to ask your therapist questions beyond the logistics of fees and scheduling. Here are some “interview” questions to consider when you attend your first session.

1. What is your philosophy?

Because of training, education background, and personality, therapists often connect with a particular theory (or multiple) to help inform their work. You could ask, “what’s your theory?” but asking about a philosophy will give you a much richer response. For instance, some therapists will focus on thoughts and how they affect your feelings, and some will focus on feelings and how they affect your thoughts. Some emphasize childhood experiences while others are more present-focused. Many therapists will ask about your family system, and some might focus on you as an individual. Asking about this will reveal your therapist’s style and approach.

2. Do you have relationships with specialists who could also support me?

Some clients will specifically tell me that they are not interested in psychiatric support, but others want both medical and therapeutic treatment. We all have different needs, and it certainly helps to know details about a specialist before you make the appointment. If your therapist can offer you information about trusted psychiatrists, physicians, and other local professionals, it speaks to both their reputation within the health care community and their commitment to providing quality, holistic care with the client’s best interests in mind.

3. How do you prefer to communicate outside of session?

Snail mail? Blogs? Newsletters? Phone? Therapists have different ideas about correspondence outside the office—some may prefer only phone calls, and some might check in with you via email. While email is not completely secure, it’s ubiquity in our society makes it a useful tool for scheduling and updating between sessions. Additionally, some therapists may offer Skype sessions for times when you’re not able to come into the office, so it’s always helpful to ask.

4. How will I know I’m getting my needs met?

Many clients have shared that they previously saw other therapists who spent most of the sessions talking and playing “expert.” These clients often walked away wondering what exactly they were working toward, and the process felt random and disorganized. Therapy is an investment in your life and future, and it should be a purposeful endeavor. Setting goals with your therapist is an important first step so that your progress can be assessed along the way. It should be collaborative, not prescriptive.

5. Do you understand/are you comfortable with multicultural issues?

Feeling valued and understood is crucial to productive therapy. It’s okay to ask your therapist about their familiarity and comfort with your demographic and presenting concerns upfront. Working with a therapist who does not share your cultural background can be intimidating, but it can also be an enriching experience. Your therapist does not have to look like you, sound like you, or share your background to meet your needs. Your therapist should, however, be willing to learn about your culture and what it means to you, meet you where you are in your identity development, and pull in helpful information from their own background and skills.

Give it a few sessions. It can feel strange to disclose personal information to a new person. Over time it can be a meaningful release, offering insight you would not otherwise have. Reflect upon your experience after the first few sessions and ask yourself questions such as: Did I feel heard? Was the session confusing or straightforward? Did I feel respected?

About the Author
Megha Pulianda

Megha Pulianda

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I am a Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern (LPC-I) under the supervision of Cory Montfort, MS, LPC-S. I research trauma psychology while pursuing my Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at Texas Woman’s University. Additionally, I enjoy being a regular blog contributor for Psychology Today where I write about the different experiences of millennials in therapy. I received my B.A. in Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and my M.S. in Counseling at Southern Methodist University. I have worked in private practice, community mental health, and hospital settings. I have experience in individual, couples, group, and family therapy.

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