New to Therapy Sessions? Questions to Ask Your New Psychotherapist

How are you feeling lately? Maybe you’ve gone through a big life change and it’s overwhelming and exhausting. Was therapy or counselling recommended to you recently?

By choosing to go to therapy, you’re choosing to invest in yourself and in your mental health. You’re spending not only time and money, but also a lot of emotional energy. You’re probably concerned about the person sitting across from you, and whether they will make or break your therapy experience.

It’s normal to feel intimidated by therapy at first, and it’s also normal to feel overwhelmed at the thought of meeting someone new. So to help you find the right therapist for yourself, we’ve got some questions to ask your new psychotherapist. Most of these questions you can feel free to ask during a consultation prior to moving forward with your sessions. 

Having a discussion guided by these questions builds trust and rapport within your therapeutic relationship. It can also help you feel more certain that you’ve found a therapist who will best meet your needs. 

Before we dive into the questions themselves, it’s worth refreshing our memory on what a psychotherapist is, reasons to see a psychotherapist, and why it’s worth asking these questions.

What is a Psychotherapist, and What Do They Do?

In Ontario Canada, there are five professions that are authorized to perform the controlled act of psychotherapy: nurses, occupational therapists, physicians, psychologists and/or psychological associates, and social workers and/or social service workers. Depending on their education and training, these psychotherapists can work directly with individuals, couples, groups, and/or families.

Psychotherapists use talk therapy to help treat those who are struggling with their mental health, which may include mental disorders. They help treat several conditions from mental exhaustion to grief, or specific cases such as depression and anxiety. Some psychotherapists use other therapeutic modalities to guide and support their clients, such as play or art therapy. You can use talk therapy by itself or combine it with other modalities or lifestyle changes.

Psychotherapy offers a supportive space where you can look into ways to promote emotional well-being and positive change in your life. In regards to talk therapy, your psychotherapist takes on the role of a facilitator, working with you to explore and address the challenges you’re currently encountering in your life. Your therapist’s aim is to help you deepen your understanding of your experiences, analyze the situation from an objective point of view, and provide guidance as you navigate and adjust your responses to your emotions and challenges effectively, using dialogue and meaningful questions. The main focus of talk therapy is to encourage you into making constructive changes in your actions, shaping the way you respond to your emotions and approach your life’s challenges. 

Psychotherapists are unprejudiced and lead with compassion. They’re trained specifically to listen closely and analyze your emotional needs in order to appropriately help you. 

Why See a Psychotherapist?

If you are dealing with daily life issues including:

  • 人际关系问题
  • Major anxiety or stress from work or other situations
  • Major life changes
  • Unhealthy reactions
  • Serious physical health issues
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sexual challenges
  • Abuse and harassment

Your psychotherapist can use talk therapy to help you work through these issues. 

These issues can turn into bigger challenges. Your psychotherapist can form a treatment plan accordingly after the diagnosis of several mental health disorders such as:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Depression and depressive disorders
  • Addictions
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders

Why Ask These Questions?

While your therapist isn’t going to become your new best friend, they’re someone you can create a relationship with as they will get to know you closely. They’re someone who ought to make you feel safe and supported. 

Even if you aren’t certain that you’ll go into long-term sessions with this individual, therapy still costs a fair bit if you’re not careful. You want to be sure you’re getting back what you put into it. By asking the right questions, you will find the best therapist that can meet your specific needs and see results. 

On a related note, there are some things you may want to keep in mind when choosing your therapist:

  • Credentials and Experience There are some therapists who work under supervision to finish the process of obtaining their credentials. It doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified mental health professionals, however by making sure you’re aware of this now saves a surprise later.
  • Specialty Ask if they specialize in a specific area of focus, such as marriage and family therapy or eating disorders. Do their specialties meet your needs?
  • Cost of sessions and insurance coverage You want to be able to afford therapy for as long as it serves you, so be sure you’re able to afford it long-term or have a plan for how often you’re able to attend sessions. 
  • Availability Do they give consent for you to contact them outside of office hours if needed? 
  • Cancellations and missed appointment policy – Ask about their policy in regards to missed appointments or cancellations. This will give you an idea of how far in advance to let them know to cancel an appointment if something comes up. 

7 Questions to Ask Your Therapist

1. Do you have experience working with patients who are like me or share my condition?

Be forward with your potential therapist about why you are choosing to seek therapy and what you wish to get out of it. If you are neurodivergent, like autistic or ADHD, you’ll want to find someone who offers neurodivergent affirming therapy. If you suspect you have anxiety, depression, or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), you’ll want to let them know. If you’re looking for help with specific issues, such as managing stress, or dealing with family dynamics, be up front in discussing this. Ask about their background working with people in similar situations to yours. 

The therapist you’re looking for will be comfortable talking about what problems you have. Listen for familiarity. If it feels like they don’t seem familiar with what you wish to discuss, consider them not right for you. 

2. What type of therapy would you recommend for what I’m dealing with?

There are many types of therapy that exist today, and one may be a better fit for your situation than others.  The most common therapy is CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy, which is what most therapists are trained in. But if you’re wanting therapy for interpersonal conflict, for instance, DBT or dialectical behavioural therapy may be the better fit over CBT or CBT alone. 

Your therapist will discuss with you the options that they offer for treatment, and which of these may be a good fit for you. Ask what they recommend for you. The answer will give you two things. One, if it feels personalized, it suggests your therapist is really listening to you. Two, the answer shows how much the therapist knows about what options are available to you. You want someone who will guide your journey down the path most effective for you.  

3. Do you take a guiding approach to therapy or are you more direct?

There is no right or wrong answer with this one, but you may need to ask this question of yourself as well as your potential therapist: 

What do you want? 

If you feel overwhelmed, a therapist who gives you specific steps to take may leave you feeling relieved. If you are looking for a sounding board, someone to unload your feelings to, you may want to find someone who will gently guide you. 

4. How will you work with me to set my therapy goals?

How does therapy work with this therapist? Some see their office as a place for conversation, while others set targets and plan on holding you accountable to them through your sessions together. 

Speak to them about the logistics of the therapy work you’ll do together. Do they have you start with a questionnaire? Do they give you a tracking tool, like a journal? Understanding their preferred process will give you a good sense of what to expect. 

Is their method something that resonates with you? Do you like their ways of helping you move forward? What might feel too much like school or restrictive for one person can be the right support for another. It’s all about personal preference. 

5. How long will I be in therapy for?

Based on what you share with your therapist about yourself and what you’re wanting to get out of therapy, your potential therapist may be able to give you a ballpark idea. Some may be able to provide therapy for a few months, while most cases take ongoing commitment with an unknown end date. 

Speak with your therapist about what to expect in terms of timelines. 

6. Are therapy sessions online, in-office, or over the phone?

Online therapy is more available now than ever and some people may find it works well with their busy schedules/comfortability. Some therapists offer phone sessions, if you’re not comfortable with a camera or do not own a compatible device. Some feel more comfortable meeting their therapist in person and find it’s easier to build a relationship that way. 

It’s good to know what options you have, especially if you’re wanting a combination in case plans change or feeling like you can’t leave the house but still want to make your therapy session. Does your therapist offer what you prefer?

7. Are we a good fit?

All these questions can help in finding a therapist who is right for you. However, it’s crucial you need to feel as if your therapist is a good fit to work with you. In some cases, there might be conflict you don’t see from your point of view.

Your therapist, as a professional, won’t likely volunteer personal information. By asking this question, you give them space to speak of any possible conflict that you may not be aware of. As you figure out how to find a therapist, at the same time they are figuring out how to best serve you. Some cases may see them recommending you see someone else.

If You’re Ready to Ask the Questions, You’re Ready to Find Who is Right for You

If after asking the questions and getting a feel for your therapist and they aren’t the right fit for you, you don’t need to feel bad about changing therapists. Starting your journey in therapy is the most important thing. It’s almost like dating–if your therapist doesn’t feel like a long-term fit, what you have learned from them can give you clarity in what you’re wanting and not wanting in your next therapist. 

If you’re confident in asking questions to see who is a right fit for you, we have lots of staff members at Hopewoods who may be able to fit your needs. We have registered psychotherapists, counsellors, social workers, a psychometrist, and life coaches. Our client care policy outlines your rights and responsibilities as a client of ours. We ensure your confidentiality, give you a copy of your therapist’s code of ethics that they must follow, and receive specific information about each of our staff’s qualifications which include education, experience, and certifications. 

You can view our team in full at the Meet the Team page on our website, and even find your therapist here. We are also often offering practicum opportunities and career opportunities to new and upcoming therapists and counsellors who are part of our Community Clinic, so if you’re not able to afford therapy sessions right away, we have affordable solutions including a sliding scale and free counselling services. 

If you’re still curious about a few things regarding what a psychotherapist is and what therapies are out there, we have several 常见问题 sections on our website that may be able to answer your questions. 
We look forward to meeting you when you’re ready! If you feel more at ease and eager to ask these questions to one of our staff, you can 预约您的免费30分钟咨询。. For any other questions or concerns you weren’t able to find here or on our website, the best way to find the answers you seek is to contact us directly.

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