Before you share your most personal thoughts with a therapist, you obviously want to make sure the person you’re talking to is a good fit for you. The more you know about your therapist and the way that person operates professionally, the more comfortable you’ll likely feel during therapy. The more comfortable you feel, the likelier you are to keep attending. Here are questions to ask a new therapist, both during and prior to your first session:
Before Your First Appointment
It helps to get a sense of how the business side of your relationship with your new therapist works. Some therapists offer a consultation over the phone before your first appointment. This could give you an opportunity to touch on topics like these:
What kind of training did you receive? The educational backgrounds of licensed professionals can differ, as psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and therapists with other titles and certifications can all provide therapy. Also, ask how long they have been practicing.
What are the fees? Once you select an in-network therapist, find out about payment plans, what is and isn’t covered by your insurance plan. Some therapists also charge based on a sliding scale, which is dictated by the client’s income.
Do you offer telehealth options? The COVID-19 pandemic led to a major spike in virtual therapy, so many therapists now offer online services.
How are cancellations or missed appointments handled? There may be a fee involved in missing an appointment without advance notice, so try to learn about the cancellation and rescheduling expectations up front.
How experienced are you in treating issues like mine? Therapists are trained to treat different issues, so you may want to find out if your therapist has clients with similar circumstances as you. You could also ask about their strengths and limitations.
What to Expect During Therapy
What are sessions like? All therapists have different styles. For some, sessions operate like a free-flowing, back-and-forth conversation. Other formats may be highly structured and feature a lot of direct advice and exercises or readings to take home.
How long will therapy last? Try getting a sense of the length of therapy, both per session and long-term. In some cases, length can’t be predicted, but therapists generally know how many weeks or months treatment will take. Keep in mind that your insurance may also factor into how many sessions are covered or partially covered.
Do you set goals or expectations? Whether written or verbalized, find out if your therapist has goals or expectations from your sessions. Some examples may include facilitating behavioral change and helping clients establish and maintain relationships. Find out your therapist’s idea of success.
Can you prescribe medication or make referrals for it? If you are interested in being evaluated for medication, some therapists can facilitate the process with a referral to a colleague.
What if we aren’t a good match? The therapist-client relationship is one of the strongest predictors of successful therapy, so you shouldn’t continue with your current therapist if you don’t feel a connection. “What if we aren’t a good match?” may not be a question you outright ask, but if you’ve had multiple sessions with your therapist and don’t feel like the two of you are clicking, you may want to talk about that during a session.
It may seem awkward, but therapists are generally used to having these conversations. If it comes time to switch, and you are seeing a therapist at a particular agency, see if you can be transferred to someone else. Otherwise, work on terminating future visits with your current therapist if they are scheduled ahead of time before you search for another in-network provider.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network can help members find an in-network mental health professional by calling behavioral health access lines listed below:
PPO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-762-2382
- A free and confidential resource that’s just a call away when you need immediate support. Behavioral health professionals answer, 24/7.
HMO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-482-5982
- Connect with a behavioral health clinician if you need help finding a mental health or substance use provider.
- Behavioral health clinicians are available for routine assistance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For urgent concerns after hours, clinicians are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Learn more about mental health and options you have as a member to seek help at bcbsm.com/mentalhealth.
Photo credit: Getty Images