10 Questions for Therapist Shopping

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Breathing a slow sigh, you realize only ten minutes have passed since you last glanced at your therapist’s gaudy bronze clock. The sound of her muted trombone voice is punctuated by the scrape of a pen against the clipboard in her lap. You’ve been in therapy for 10 months. Your symptoms haven’t improved. You’ve spent nearly $5,000, and you have lost all sense of hope. “Therapy doesn’t work,” you conclude. Grabbing your coat, you walk out of the office, 30 minutes to spare.

As a trauma therapist of 7 years, it breaks my heart to hear stories like this. All hope lost due to a poor pairing of therapist and client… or possibly just a poor therapist. Perhaps this scenario sounds like one you’ve been in, or maybe you’re just looking to avoid it. Using these following insights, you will be able to have confidence in finding a therapist who fits you and provides you with lasting change. 

Where do I start?

Ask yourself the following:

  • Why am I seeking therapy

  • Am I willing to forego using insurance

  • Do I need specific assessments

  • What do I want from treatment; what outcome am I looking for

  • What problems/symptoms am I facing

  • (To the best of my knowledge) When did my symptoms begin

Where do I find a therapist?

Word of mouth is ideal, but you can also try out PsychologyToday.com. Most therapists have a profile posted here with a list of insurances they accept, general price of treatment, location, a bio, pic, approaches and techniques, as well as specialties.

Make a list of therapists whose bios, websites, and approaches seem to be a good fit, and interview all of them. Before calling your list, take an extra second to confirm their license. You can do this online through government professional licensing sites. Through these sites, you can find if a license exists, or has been suspended, has charges against it. Side note: make sure you look up licenses by full names. For instance, my first name is actually Joseph, not Joe (what a shocker).

How do I know if a therapist will be a good fit for me?

The majority of effective treatment comes mainly through having good rapport with your therapist. After all, if you don’t trust someone and they generally don’t really “click” with you, why would you spend time (let alone money) with them? To get an initial feel for your therapist’s approach and personality, it is crucial to interview them. Many therapists will gladly answer the following questions over the phone, and some will offer a free consultation meeting to figure out if they would be a good fit. You gotta know people in order to trust them. Your relationship with your therapist is no different.

Questions to ask:

  1. What do you specialize in (don’t pick someone who doesn’t specialize)

  2. What is your general approach in treating my symptoms/disorder

  3. What/who don’t you work

  4. What can I expect from a typical session with you

  5. What experience do you have in treating my symptoms/disorder

  6. How long have you been in practice

  7. Have you been through therapy (if your therapist hasn’t been through treatment, don’t see them. period.)

  8. Do you take my insurance (if you want to use it)

  9. What’s the cost

  10. What times of day can I schedule (Will you fit with my schedule