Counseling is a very intimate process. It can be nerve wracking to think about going into an office with someone you don’t know to spill your guts for the first time. We often fear judgement and hold back until we feel more safe. This can actually delay the impact of counseling. Counseling and therapy is relational and thus, counselors and clients need to be a good FIT for each other. Here are the TOP FIVE QUESTIONS you can ask your therapist during a 15 minute consultation before scheduling with them and make ease some of the anxiety of coming in for your first session.
#1 How do you think change happens?
This might seem like a weird question but a counselor or therapist should be able to be very clear about how they are going to work with you to help you make the change you want in your life. Sometimes they might tell you they have a theory that they use. If you are not familiar with it, ask them to explain more. Sometimes they put things in plain English like, “We will go through the negative talk and trash in your head and work to change the messages you tell yourself. We will also work on changing behaviors and examining feelings and self-talk that get in the way of you being who you want to be”. There are many ways that therapists work and some use specialized training or techniques like Gottman techniques or EMDR. Work to get a clear picture of what you may be doing in therapy to help make change.
#2 What type of availability do you have in your schedule?
You want to ask this question for many reasons. Does their availability match up to yours? Do you need days but they only work in the evening? Do they only have availability for you to come once every couple of weeks? Do they have space for emergency appointments? You want to not only know if your calendars match up but how quickly or intensely you will be able to work with them. The brain is a muscle and so the more often you work it out, the quicker you will see change and growth happen in your life. Slow progress, slow results.
#3 How would you describe your counseling style?
Therapists are all different based upon their own background, experiences, values, beliefs, personality, etc. They all receive similar basic training but they also bring themselves to the therapy room. Thus, the experience you may have in therapy can be different. If you struggle with people being direct and need a softer touch, you want to know if that therapist works in that manner. Likewise, if you struggle with ambiguity, you may want a more directive confrontive therapist to challenge your thoughts and behaviors. Asking about their style should give you want you are seeking in this regard.
#4 How to you track progress or know I am making progress?
Therapy and counseling is not a lifetime commitment. Counselors should address the goals you have for therapy and work to help you achieve these goals. Now, they don’t have pixie dust and you have to do the work. There was no magic wand that came with the training! BUT, they do make a plan to help you move through the issue and track how you are doing with the plan. It’s always beneficial for a counselor and a client to check and see if they are making progress with the goals they have set, if they need to be adjusted, or if new goals need to be set due to other issues popping up. They probably cannot tell you, “this will take x sessions” but they can outline what they see the benchmarks for progress. It’s helpful to know if this is how your therapist works.
#5 What do you expect from your client?
Therapy and counseling is a relationship between two people. It’s good to know what the other person expects from you. Expectations might include 24 hour cancellation, paying in advance or at the time of service, homework, honesty, or several other aspects. This will again help you decide if you are a good FIT for each other.
Now you have the questions to ask. If you are ready to take the next step, give us a call to set up your free 15 minutes consultation or go to the contact page on our website!