Interviewing a Therapist
Choosing a counselor or psychotherapist can feel overwhelming! With so many qualified professionals available, how do you know which one is right for you? While there is no magic formula for success, there are some things you can do to make the process easier and to weigh the odds in your favor. Getting the right fit will go a long way to ensure a satisfying outcome to your therapy or counseling experience.
- Becoming familiar with some of the terms used in counseling and therapy will help you navigate this Directory and make a more informed choice (see "Types of Therapy"). Knowing how to decipher credentials--all those mysterious little letters after people's names--is also helpful as you sift through the information provided by the various providers in their listings (see "Deciphering Credentials")
- First, however, you might want to ask yourself some questions: What exactly do I want out of my therapy experience? How much time and money am I prepared to devote to it? How will I pay for it? How important is the therapist's gender or sexual orientation? Philosophical or spiritual values? Office location, etc.? You may not have clear answers to all of these questions, and that's fine. But you should at least think about them, bring them up when you interview prospective therapists, and use them or similar questions as a guide in making your choice.
- O.K., you've thought about what you want from therapy, you've looked through the Directory, and you've narrowed your possibilities down to a few. The next step is to interview your potential therapists. Some therapists have a reduced fee for an initial interview. Even if they don't, it's usually worth your time and money to get a feel for the therapist in person. If that's not possible, you should at least spend some time with them on the telephone. Any therapist who is not willing to talk with you on the phone and answer questions is likely to be a poor choice; if you catch them at a busy moment, ask if they can call you back and spend some time with you later.
- You may want to make some notes about questions that you have so you don't forget important points. But while you're actually talking, try to focus on getting a feel for the person you're meeting or talking to as well as the content of the discussion. Your initial consultation is not only a fact-finding mission but also a chance for you to get a sense of the chemistry between you and the therapist. You might want to ask about their therapeutic approach and their professional training, as well as their experience working with your particular issues. You should also get information on fees, insurance coverage if you plan to use insurance, policies on missed sessions or extra contact by phone or in person etc. If you've had prior experience with therapy and had specific things that you liked (or didn't like) about that experience, it can be helpful to review that with whomever you're interviewing and see how they respond.
Here are some questions you might ask yourself after the session:
- Did the therapist seem interested in me as a person?
- Did the therapist seem to understand my concerns? Did I feel listened to and accepted?
- Did I get a sense of how we would proceed if we chose to work together?
- Was I able to direct the conversation if I wanted to? Did I feel comfortable asking questions or sharing information?
- Did I learn new information or gain a new perspective on my problems?
- Did I like this person? Will I want them in my life for the next (3 months, 6 months, 2 years or?)?
- While training, experience, approach etc. are important issues when choosing a therapist, the relationship between therapist and client is the most crucial element of successful therapy. By exploring these questions you'll be able to clarify your thoughts and feelings about the interviews and maximize your chance of finding the therapist that's right for you.
—from Women’s Therapy Project Northwest, http://www.wtpnw.org/interviewing.html