20 Questions to Ask Your Therapist First Meeting

To make sure a new therapist is the right fit, here are questions to ask your therapist first meeting. The first session is crucial and can make or break your session.

Seeking professional help is a great way to prioritize your mental health. With that said, finding a therapist that is a good fit for you can be a challenge.

If you’re looking to start therapy for the first time or looking to switch to a new therapist, there are a few things to know before you get started.

The first thing you should know: you hire your therapist to work for you.

That means you can “fire” a therapist if their methodology of treatment isn’t working for you.

Sometimes a type of therapy works for one issue but won’t work for another. That’s OK! That’s why therapists have specializations.

For example, if you want to do talk therapy and process issues you have with family members or your childhood and family history, you might see a family therapist.

If you have anxiety and/or OCD tendencies, you might see a therapist who specializes in Generalized Anxiety Disorder and OCD.

Some therapists work with cognitive behavioral therapy while others specialize in dialectical behavior therapy.

Different issues need different approaches for each treatment plan.

Before starting care with a therapist, it is important to determine if the therapist in question is the right fit for you. The best way to do that is by asking questions.

You may not be able to get a total sense of how you may fit together before a first therapy session, though when reaching out to new therapists you can ask questions over the phone and set up your first appointment.

Another thing to remember is that mental health professionals are human, too. Some personalities don’t jive, and that’s OK too.

Usually you’ll get an understanding of your personalities and whether or not they mesh during the first visit, but sometimes it takes a few sessions to establish.

While this list certainly isn’t extensive, asking the right questions can certainly help you get information that will help you determine if the therapist in question is the right one to help you on your mental health journey.

20 Questions to Ask Your Therapist First Meeting

First, some of the most common questions:

  1. Do you offer in-person sessions or telehealth/virtual sessions?
  2. Do you work with my insurance company?
  3. What is your cancellation policy?

Then, some more specific ones:

  1. Have you ever worked with the [fill-in-the-blank] community before?
  2. What is your knowledge of [fill-in-the blank] culture?
  3. Are you willing to do research on (fill-in-the-blank issue) to help me move forward?

While your backgrounds and experiences may differ, it is important to know what your priorities are when seeking professional help so you can find the best fit with possible mental health providers. 

As a teenager and as an adult, I often found myself in the uncomfortable position of having to explain the differences and complexities of Japanese culture to my Caucasian therapists.

This made it difficult for me to build rapport with these individuals.

Living abroad in East Asia as an adult made it even more important that I find a professional with understanding of Japanese culture and language.

It is important to know your therapist’s background.

Knowing if they have had experience treating or working with individuals from a certain culture is key to establishing trust and an effective rapport.

To establish trust:

  1. Do you ever fire clients? If so, why?
  2. Do you think this is a good fit?
  3. Can you help me achieve my goals?
  4. Can you accommodate my needs?

It is important to ask this question in order to understand the therapist’s expectations of their clients. A therapeutic relationship is a two-way street.

It’s important for the therapist to feel that they can help you with your specific issues. 

A good therapist will help you outline goals you have for your care and monitor your progress.

Asking these questions will allow both of you to be transparent about your expectations and boundaries from the start.

The answers to these questions will prevent both parties from wasting their time:

  1. What is your experience with [fill-in-the-blank]?
  2. What different types of therapy do you employ to address [fill-in-the-blank mental health condition)?

The right person will have your best interests in mind and should also let you know at the end of your session if they can’t help.

As a client, you have the right to know how much experience they have in treating and addressing the issue you’re dealing with.

While it is a good idea to read through their professional biography online, asking these questions allows you to dig deeper and gives the provider the opportunity to give you more details should they believe it necessary.

Dig deeper into your therapy with these questions:

  1. What does (fill-in-the-blank) therapy entail?
  2. Do you give homework? Why or why not?
  3. Do you take notes? Why or why not?
  4. How are your therapy sessions typically structured?
  5. Are you a member of a peer consultation group?

The first therapy appointment with a potential therapist is a good opportunity to learn about the modalities they use for specific mental health issues.

You can ask questions about those modalities in order to determine if you would be comfortable receiving treatment.

You may also find it beneficial to determine how the therapist in question structures their sessions and remembers details. 

Questions about your therapist’s experience:

  1. What is the hardest problem for you to work with?
  2. How long have you been licensed?
  3. What do you consider your specialty?
  4. Have you seen a counselor yourself?
  5. What led you into the mental health field?
  6. How often do you see clients?

The above questions are also good ways to learn more about your potential therapist’s background.

While it isn’t possible to walk out of the first session knowing everything about your therapist, all of the answers to these questions will allow you to follow your instincts and make your own decision about whether or not to move forward.

If there’s an important question to you that we haven’t touched on, don’t be afraid to ask it.

The right therapist will help you feel comfortable while working through your issues and mental health goals. They should make you feel as though you’re in a safe space to explore anything on your mind.

Please know: If you are having suicidal thoughts or need someone to talk to ASAP, you can call 988 at any time for access to the crisis hotline and mental health services.

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About the Author

Alisa Tanaka

Alisa Tanaka graduated with a Communications degree from Lewis & Clark College in 2012. She hopes to develop a career that allows her to make a measurable impact on the world while doing something that she loves. Her interests include psychology, linguistics, and mental health. She can also be found reading, watching documentaries, and writing her blog.

Website: alisatanaka.com/