Scripps Ranch and Bankers Hill Therapist Sara Cole.
By Sara Cole MFT
1. What type of license do you have to provide therapy?
It is important that a therapist have a valid license to practice in the state where you are. It is also a good idea to know the difference between some of the most common types of licenses. Most importantly, keep in mind that a life coach is NOT a therapist and does not have the training or license that an MFT, LCSW, PSy.D or Ph.D has.
2. Do you have any specializations? Do you specialize in the issues I am having?
It is important that a therapist have experience working with the problem you are looking for help with. For some issues there is extra training therapists can do to become expert.
3. How would you work with the type of issue I am having?
Asking this question will allow you to see if the therapist’s approach feels like something you would be comfortable with. The answer to this question will also give you a feel for the therapist’s understanding of the issue you are presenting.
4. How long have you been practicing? How long have you been licensed?
While time alone is not an indicator of quality, it will give you an idea if this therapist has at least some experience. Also, therapists with less experience should be less expensive which may also be a factor for you to keep in mind. In the end, the most important thing is the connection you feel to a therapist and your comfort level in working with them.
5. Have you had any complaints filed against you?
This could be a red flag. If yes, what was the complaint and what was the outcome? A complaint itself may be just that or it may have resulted in the therapist being found guilty of a wrong doing.
6. Do you have a specific approach you use in therapy?
Some therapists have chosen to specialize in working with one approach such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Narrative Therapy or EMDR are examples of some of the many theories or approaches. Other therapists work from a range of theories and perspectives based on what you are looking for and what you need. It’s good to know this about your therapists as it will greatly influence how they work with you and how they understand the issues you are working on.
7. What is your fee?
This is important to ask so that there are no surprises during your first session and the fee may also be a factor in your deciding on a therapist.
8. How long are your sessions? How often would you want to see me?
Typically, a therapy session lasts from 45-50 minutes and is referred to as a therapeutic hour. However, there are therapists who offer longer sessions so that you have the opportunity to get more done in a single session. This is something worth asking about.
9. Do you offer online or phone sessions if I am unable to come to the office?
Not all therapists do this. It’s a great alternative to missing a session if you are ill or out of town.
10. What is not private and confidential about what we do?
All therapists are required to keep your information and what you talk about in session, confidential. There are a couple of legal exceptions to these laws and those are that a therapist is mandated to report if they suspect child abuse or elder abuse or that you intend to hurt yourself or someone else. These very specific exceptions are in place to ensure safety.
If you are doing couples or family therapy, it may be important for you to talk with your therapist about how confidentiality works in terms of family members or partners.
11. I’ve never been in therapy before. What will it be like?
Asking this question gives you another opportunity to see how this therapist works and to get a feel for what a session might be like.
12. Do you think you can help me?
Your faith in the therapist’s belief is important. Working with a therapist that has confidence in your ability to be successful is so so important.
Asking questions like these will help you to get a feel for a potential therapist. No therapist is the right person for everyone, so finding a therapist that feels like a good fit is vastly important. This will then help ensure that you are able to get the most out of therapy.
Sara Cole has been providing mental health services in San Diego for 15 years. Sara specializes in working with women and teen girls to overcome trauma and major life changes, including postpartum depression and anxiety. She is also passionate about providing treatment to those whose lives are affected by the addiction of a loved one.