Four questions to ask a potential therapist

What is your therapy orientation? If you experience a cold, there are many medication options or holistic treatments that you can take to relieve your symptoms. Depending on your body and personal preference, the methods you take to address your cold will be different. Similarly, when you experience mental health related issues, there are many options of treatments and therapy styles that can be used to provide healing. The amount of healing you experience from these treatments or styles will depend on several factors such as: personality, the relationship you build with your therapist, the activities or conversations had in therapy, and your expectations about getting better. The way these factors work together to contribute to your healing in therapy will be influenced by the therapists’ approach.

Depending on the therapists’ approach, they will emphasize different aspects of your experience as human beings such as how we relate to others, how we think, how we feel, and how we behave as part of the healing process. When you have a cold, you investigate what combination of treatments will be most helpful to you based on what you have to do, how the treatment makes you feel, and how long the treatment takes to work. By asking about the therapists’ orientation you will get similar answers concerning their approach and if it will be most helpful to you.

How do I get help outside of therapy? Therapy is usually once a week for one hour and sometimes you might need additional support between sessions. Talk with your therapist about potential opportunities for additional support in times of need or crisis outside of therapy. These supports could include hotline numbers, group therapy, or the number to the hospital nearest to your location. Similar to our need to supplement our regular cold medication with cough drops, having these additional supports can help with the healing process between your “doses” of therapy.   

Do you have a sliding scale fee? Costs is one of the most significant barriers for individuals seeking much needed therapy. Additionally, depending on experience and expertise, the costs of therapy can range from $50-$250 or more. Many therapists see access to therapy as a social justice issue and work to create an affordable range of prices for services. If you are experiencing financial difficulties or face hardship during the therapy process, talk with your therapist about potential payment options such as a reduced fee or payment plan. Do not let costs be prohibitive to you getting the help that you need, work with your therapist to find the best solution for your economic circumstances.

Have you worked with someone like me? A recent American Psychological Association (APA) Workforce study found that the average psychologist works mainly with White middle-income heterosexual women. These results unfortunately support the stereotype that therapy is inaccessible for individuals with various minority identities. Additionally, these results suggest that many therapists may have limited exposure to working with various identities in their private practices. Most training programs are teaching clinicians about the concept of cultural humility which means that despite limited exposure, your therapist could be self-aware of their cultural identity and open to exploring your identity with you and incorporating it into the therapy process. However, this exploration will need to be a collaborative process with reciprocal learning between you and the therapist. Don’t be afraid to share the salient parts of your cultural identity and discuss with your therapist about how these variables can influence the therapy process.     

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