So you’re ready to see a therapist! Finding a therapist can be a tough experience for some. Like the first obstacle: there’s a lot of filtering through different platforms, like Psychology Today, GoodTherapy, and Black Therapist List. These platforms provide a way to filter through location, issues, language, and type of therapy. And while it may seem like a lot, picking and choosing in this way can help you find a therapist that suits your needs.
For your first appointment you may have a lot of questions, misconceptions, and nerves. This is all normal—you’re about to meet a complete stranger with this underlying expectation that you have to share all your thoughts, emotions, and problems! Then add to that the fact that every therapist is different. They offer different modalities, styles, and interventions to help you on your journey towards reaching your goals, managing distress, or simply offering a space to talk.
There’s a lot to consider. Where do you start?
To help you navigate through this first meeting, here are some questions that you can ask your therapist on the first visit to help you feel comfortable and get to know them.
What type of therapy do you do?
There are different services, styles, education, and treatment styles. This will help you understand more of who they are and how they can help you. A lot of the time you’ll see treatment styles in their bio, but do you know the difference between Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)? Be sure to ask your therapist about their specialization because that will give you some insight into their style of therapy.
Do you offer sliding scale? What is your regulatory body?
Some therapists will mention this on their website and some may not. If you are trying to budget your therapy it's important to know if you’re paying out of pocket or if you have insurance coverage. There’s a difference between mental health practitioners and this can be confusing when you’re reviewing your benefits. Make sure you know which regulatory body your therapist is under so you don’t find yourself submitting a claim that's denied. If you’re paying out of pocket then inquire about a sliding scale and see if you and your therapist can determine an affordable amount.
Do you have experience working with...?
Knowing if your therapist has experience working with your culture, sexual orientation, mental health issues, diagnosis, etc can help to develop the therapeutic relationship. Don’t assume that every therapist can help with every presenting problem or person. Getting to know your therapist's niche will allow you both to collaborate together instead of feeling misunderstood.
These three questions are a good foundation to open up the conversation and provide you with some insight into the person that you’ll be working with. Remember, your participation in therapy is important, and by having these conversations you and the therapist can work together at dismantling any power imbalances and creating a safe shared space where you are equally informed.