Meeting with a counselor for the first time can feel frightening and overwhelming. But there are ways to make starting counseling less intimidating. One of those ways is to make sure you’ve chosen a therapist will be a good fit for you. Years of experience have taught me that the most important indicator of success in therapy is the connection you feel with your therapist.

Before committing to treatment with a therapist, there are four questions you should know the answers to.

These questions can easily be addressed in the initial phone consultation with your potential therapist.

What Type of Therapy Do You Offer?

Most therapists specialize in a particular kind of therapy such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), gestalt, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), psychodynamic, or family systems. Each of the schools of thought will provide some insight as to how that therapist works and how they believe change and growth occur. 

For example, psychodynamic therapists pay special attention to past relationships and behaviors to help understand current behaviors and symptoms. EMDR is often used to heal the symptoms of trauma and many other symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has long been proven as an effective methodology to treat disorders such as anxiety and depression.

It’s also important to understand how your therapist will work with you each week. Will you be assigned homework? What will be expected of you? If you are seeking therapy for a specific problem, inquire how they would approach it.

Is Contact Allowed In-Between Sessions?

If it is important to you to be able to call, email or text your therapist with questions or concerns in between sessions, ask what their policy is. Some therapists may allow contact in case of an emergency. If this is the case you want to make sure you know what constitutes an emergency.

Some therapists may read email messages or listen to voicemails but will not respond, while others will reply or call you back.

Understanding your potential counselor’s policy for contact between sessions is essential to ensure you are both a good fit for each other, there are no miscommunications, and there are clear expectations.

What Happens if You Have an Emergency?

Once you know what constitutes an emergency, you’ll want to know how they help you handle one. Some therapists will allow you to call them at home or at their office while others will use an answering service that will get a message to them. Still, others may ask you to call crisis line or go to a hospital. This is crucial information to know to make sure you receive the best possible care in the event of an emergency and to avoid miscommunication.

How Much Experience Do You Have Treating People Like Me?

You wouldn’t hire a hairdresser to fix your leaky faucet, so why hire a therapist who doesn’t have experience treating people with the same issue you are experiencing. Therapists often specialize in specific areas and become experts on that particular treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask this question to ensure you’re getting the best therapist for your needs.

If they don’t specialize in what you’re looking for, ask if they have any references that do. Often, therapist will refer you out anyway, if they feel that a colleague will be a better fit for you.

Finding the right therapist for you may take some time, but the search will be worthwhile.

James Killian, LPC is a counselor in Woodbridge, CT. He is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling where they specialize in helping anxious people take control of their lives, stressed parents feel more at peace, and frustrated professionals achieve their goals. Call today to schedule a free consultation.