Going to therapy can help you work through painful emotions, learn coping skills and develop a new perspective. Therapy can be beneficial whether you’re experiencing a mental health issue or need someone to help you adjust to a major change in life. To reap the benefits of therapy, it’s crucial to find a therapist you connect with and who makes you feel comfortable. When you find a therapist you click with, you’ll also be more likely to continue going to therapy sessions. About 20% of clients drop out of therapy before they finish treatment, and one of the main reasons people quit is they feel they don’t mesh with their counselor.
Like any partnership in life, it takes time to develop a rapport with a counselor and feel safe talking about your thoughts and feelings. Therapists understand that it can be uncomfortable at first to open up about your inner world, and they recognize the value of choosing the right therapist from the start.
Finding the right therapist match can seem tricky, and it might take a little time. You’re encouraged to “shop around” to find a compatible therapist, and you have a right to ask a counselor questions before you start going to sessions regularly. Therapy is an investment in your mental health and well-being, so it’s worth it to find a counselor you enjoy meeting with who makes you feel comfortable, supported and respected.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what to ask a therapist and the main office before and during your first session. These questions will help you determine whether a counselor is a good fit for you and your unique needs.
Questions to Ask Your Therapist Before Your First Session
Most practices are happy to answer a few questions over the phone before you have your first session. After you’ve done some research and found a few therapists who seem like they might be a good fit, create a list of questions you want to ask right away, and reach out to them. To help you get started, here are some questions to ask the office before you make an appointment. Feel free to add to the list if you come up with more questions along the way.
How Do I Prepare for My First Session?
Ask the therapist or their office what you need to do to prepare for your first therapy session. The counselor can tell you what you’ll need to do to ensure everything is squared away, so you can focus on healing and growth once you begin therapy.
Do You Accept My Insurance?
If you have health insurance that covers mental health services, you’ll need to know if the counselor is in your insurance plan’s network before you start therapy. You can call the phone number on your insurance card to find out, or ask the counselor directly for assistance.
Insurance can be confusing and stressful to think about, but you don’t have to figure out the details alone. Ask the therapist to help you determine if you’re covered and how much you’ll still need to pay. Depending on the type of insurance you have, you may have to pay a copay, which is typically printed on the front of an insurance card, and a deductible — if it has not been met yet. The therapist can discuss what you can expect to pay for their services overall, taking your insurance coverage into account.
What Forms Do I Need to Fill Out?
Therapists are legally required to keep records of patients. These records help therapists perform their jobs well and get reimbursed for their services. Your paperwork will also help a counselor get to know you a little before they start providing treatment, and they can determine if they have the right skills to serve your needs. Ask the therapist what type of paperwork you need to complete before your first session. You’ll usually fill out forms related to:
- Medical history
- Privacy laws
- Insurance information
- Reasons for going to counseling and your goals
At Taylor Counseling Group, we offer a convenient online portal to help new clients fill out the required forms before they start therapy. After you register online, you’ll receive a secure email with links to our online forms. We ask new clients to complete these forms 24 hours before their first session.
If you are going to couples counseling, your partner will also need to fill out forms. If you are setting an appointment for a minor, be sure to fill out the proper consent forms. Know that the law requires you to provide verified custody documents if you’re undergoing a child custody dispute or are the custodial parent.
The counselor can tell you about all the paperwork that’s needed, so you can move forward with therapy, according to your unique situation. If you have any questions about the process, feel free to ask.
Where Are You Located?
Even with a GPS, it can be easy to miss a turn or drive past the counselor’s office, especially if you’re driving to an unfamiliar area. Save yourself the frustration and get to your appointment on time by making sure you know exactly where to go. Ask the therapist to verify the address and describe the area. Find out about the parking situation and what you can expect. You’ll want to consider factors like parking and traffic, so you can plan ahead and arrive at your first session early. Therapists run on a strict schedule, so if you get there early, you can be sure you won’t lose any time during your session.
Questions to Ask Your Therapist During Your First Session
Your first session should allow you to get to know a therapist better and give you the chance to ask more questions. You’ll also have the opportunity to discuss your goals and what you hope to accomplish with treatment. It helps to think about what you want to gain from therapy before you go to your first session, but it’s okay if you’re not comfortable revealing too much information right away.
If it feels a little strange being the one asking questions, that’s okay, too. A therapist should be open and honest with you and glad to answer your questions. The key is to ask questions that are important to you and will help you determine if the therapist is someone you can trust. Here are some specific questions you might ask.
What Is a Typical Session Like?
You might not know what to expect during a therapy session, especially if it’s your first time. Therapists understand it takes courage to start therapy, and it’s not easy to open up to a stranger about your thoughts and feelings. To help calm any anxiety you might be feeling, ask the counselor what you can expect therapy to be like. You might ask questions such as:
- Will you talk, or will I do most of the talking?
- Will you talk about the past or focus on the present?
- How important is it to talk about the past?
Remember, you won’t be expected to share your most private thoughts and feelings during your first session, and it’s okay if you feel nervous talking about personal details. There also won’t be any pressure to solve all your problems right away. Counselors know that clients might feel confused about their goals or the direction they want to take, and they understand that things don’t change overnight. Your first session will be about the counselor getting to know you and giving you the space to talk.
After your first session, you can expect to spend some time building trust and developing a relationship with your counselor before you feel completely comfortable. However, if you want to talk about specific experiences or concerns right away, you can. The counselor will work at a pace that’s right for you.
It’s alright if you feel like the therapist isn’t a good fit for you during or after your first session, too. At Taylor Counseling Group, we understand the importance of feeling a connection with your therapist, and we will help you find another counselor if you think you haven’t yet found the right match.
How Long Are Sessions?
Find out how often the counselor expects to see you and consider if you’re able to make the type of commitment they feel will benefit you. You’ll also want to find out their availability to make sure it suits your schedule.
At Taylor Counseling Group, sessions are typically held once a week for 45 to 55 minutes, but this can vary, depending on your individual needs. Your therapist will recommend a custom treatment plan based on your needs, goals and what works best for you.
You might also ask the therapist how long they expect your treatment to last. Although treatment can range from being one-session-long to years-long, depending on an individual’s wants and needs, the counselor should be able to give you a general idea of how long treatment usually lasts.
What Is Your Cancellation Policy?
Most counseling practices require a 24-hour notice of cancellation. If you are unable to cancel within the 24-hour timeframe or miss an appointment, you’ll be charged a fee. Policies vary between practices, so you’ll want to ask the counselor what to expect if something happens at the last minute, and you’re unable to attend an appointment. Although this might not be a deciding factor for you, it’s still something you’ll want to consider.
At Taylor Counseling Group, we allow cancellations up to 24 hours before your appointment with no fee. You can easily cancel appointments in our online portal. After 24 hours, you won’t be able to cancel an appointment online, but you can still call us, and we’ll be happy to help.
Questions to Ask Yourself After Your First Session
After your first appointment with a potential therapist, it helps to reflect on the session and ask yourself some questions, such as:
- Did you feel like you could trust the person?
- Did they make you feel comfortable and safe expressing your emotions?
- Did they seem knowledgeable about the issues you wish to get treatment for?
- Did they seem happy to answer your questions?
- Did they explain how they can help you?
- Did you enjoy meeting with them, and would you like to talk to them again?
- Did you feel engaged in the conversation?
- Did they make you feel heard, understood and respected?
- Did you feel better or worse after talking to them?
- Did they seem to have a positive outlook?
Lastly, you’ll want to ask yourself how they made you feel overall. What does your intuition tell you? If it just didn’t feel right, consider meeting with a different therapist and see if you experience a stronger connection.
If you decide you would like to continue meeting with the counselor, make sure to set an appointment right away, so you can reserve your spot and start treatment. Our online booking system allows you to schedule appointments 24/7, so you can avoid any interruptions with your treatment and plan your sessions when convenient.
We believe that therapy is most effective when it’s affordable, reliable and accessible, and we want you to come in at least once a week. We also understand that weekly therapy is not always an option for some clients. Your counselor will work with you to set up a treatment schedule that suits your needs.
Schedule an Appointment Today
It’s common to meet with a few different therapists before finding the right match. Sometimes, it even takes a few sessions to determine if you’ve found a suitable therapist for you. You have a right to change counselors if they don’t seem to fit your personality or if therapy isn’t helping. Counselors are trained professionals who understand that treatment is most effective when you feel a connection and a strong sense of trust.
If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and are ready to explore your counseling options, we invite you to meet our therapists at Taylor Counseling Group. Our compassionate, highly trained and licensed counselors are committed to helping clients reach their goals and build satisfying lives and relationships. When you contact one of our locations, we’ll pair you with a therapist who suits your needs to help you get on the right track.
To get started with affordable therapy and a personalized treatment plan, schedule an appointment online today.