Questions to ask a Prospective Therapist:

How often do you meet regularly with other professionals to consult about your cases?

It is very important that the therapist that you end up working with consults regularly with other experienced professionals. Consultation helps therapists generate additional possible interventions,  and widen their perspective on what is occurring in the therapy and how to overcome roadblocks in the client’s progress.  Practicing psychotherapy in a vacuum, isolated from others who can help the therapist understand his or her biases and blind spots, can produce less than optimal treatment.  In my opinion, if a prospective therapist is not meeting at least weekly with other professionals to consult, you will not be getting a high standard of care.

How often do you go to live conferences and workshops to get updates in your field?

The field of psychotherapy is constantly changing as new research unveils more about what works to overcome various client problems.  New treatments have been developed that have been shown in clinical trials to be very effective for specific types of disorders.  It is important that the person you see is up-to-date.  Therapists who are active and involved in new developments in their area of expertise tend to go to at least 2-3 live workshops or conferences a year.

How do you monitor client progress?

Therapy is supposed to help people get better, resolve problems, and suffer less.  It is important that your therapist has some system in place to determine whether or not therapy is actually helping you.  If a therapist is not checking on your progress on a regular basis, you may not be getting better and you and your therapist may not be talking about this and figuring out what to do about it.

What do you do if you find that the presenting problem a client came to you with (e.g. depression, anxiety, relationship difficulty, etc.) is not improving?

Therapists should have a plan for what to do when clients are not getting better.  If the plan is “more of the same,” clients should have serious doubts about whether or not to work with this provider.

What type of client do you work best with?

It is important that you and your therapist are a good “fit.”  By hearing the answer to  this question, you will get a sense of whether or not your prospective therapist feels like he or she is effective with clients like you. 

Do you regularly ask your clients for feedback about how things are going in therapy? How do you do this?  When?  How often?

It is important that therapists are responsive to what is working/not working for their clients in therapy.  If your therapist does not regularly ask for feedback, or take your feedback seriously, you may be disempowered (rather than empowered) by therapy.

How do you typically work with your clients?

It is important that a therapist can clearly answer this question.  What does the beginning of treatment look like? The middle?  The end?  What does a session look like?  What can the client expect from the therapist, and what can the therapist expect from the client?

How many clients do you see a week?

The American Psychological Association considers 24 patients a week to be “full time.”  If someone is seeing more clients than this, they may not be able to give each client the time, energy, and outside-of-session thinking and leg work that the client deserves.

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Published on  November 15th, 2011