The 6 Most Important Questions to ask a Therapist

The 6 Most Important Questions to ask a Therapist
October 17, 2022

It can be hard to get started with therapy. For most people, the reason motivating them to look for services are related to stress, grief, and a variety of situations that are not going well in life. Figuring out how to find the right therapists, especially if this is the first time someone is looking for a clinician, can feel confusing and exhausting.

At Mente, we offer all prospective clients a free initial consultation. This practice is standard for most clinicians, and it allows for people to ask questions and get to know the therapist before committing to working together.

I am including here some of the questions that people have asked me in the past that I have found to be helpful in determining if a therapist is a good fit.

  1. Tell me more about your experience in the mental health field.
  2. Often times, therapists have had a wide variety of trainings and experiences. It is interesting and important to hear a bit about the therapist’s educational background as well as some of things they have had the opportunity of doing in the mental health field. Some therapists have worked with people of various ages, in different parts of the world, or have had experience leading programs or coordinating services for the community. All of this can be informative for the prospective client who is trying to determine a good match for their needs.

  3. What is your approach to therapy?
  4. There are so many different techniques that can be used in mental health treatment that it can be hard to keep up with all of the information as a prospective client. Make sure to ask the therapist about any acronyms, what is the evidence behind each approach, and what have been the results they have observed while applying different techniques. If you have a particular mental health concern such as anxiety or depression, ask about how the technique is known to help ameliorate any symptoms that are causing discomfort.

  5. In what situations have you seen the most success?
  6. Therapists have a lot of observations and personal reports from the people that they have served over the years. Knowing what the clinician has found most effective, and what people have said about what works best, can provide some good information about what the client might want to ask for once they are in therapy.

  7. How long should I prepare to be in therapy?
  8. This is a very common question when people are getting started. The most common answer is that it is hard to tell. While some people can feel like they have met their goals within a few months, a lot of people prepare to participate in therapy for a year or longer. I usually recommend thinking about therapy as the regular check-ups we schedule with our primary care physicians. Therapy is rarely something to engage in once, and instead is something that sustains our overall health and should be something that we invest in at different stages of our lives.

  9. How do I know what my goals are?
  10. Most therapists will begin by building a relationship with their clients. The intention is to be able to invite a partnership with the client so that they can be drivers of their own healthcare. A lot of people know at least one or two reasons that brought them to seek therapy, and often these evolve into something that moves the client forward. It is okay to ask for recommendations or input from the therapist, but the client will always be empowered to indicate what they need while the therapist supports them.

  11. How do I know if we are a good fit?
  12. Most people start by deciding if the like the way their initial consultation went. If they like the person that they talked to, and enjoyed what they heard about the therapist’s work, this is a good sign. Relationships need to be built and nurtured over time so assessing a good fit is something that has to continue beyond the initial brief consultation. In most instances, participating in mental health therapy is voluntary. If at any point it is decided that it no longer feels like a good fit, all therapists can provide referrals to other clinicians and make sure that the client feels empowered to continue their search.

We hope that this brief guide can help people find the support that they are looking for. These questions are intended to be a general overview of how people might go about discussing the services that they are needing, but we acknowledge that there are many possible questions that people may need to ask that have not been covered here.

Martha Stebbins-Aguiniga

I am Martha, Director, and Mental Health Counselor at Mente. I am a mother, partner, tía, daughter, and friend. I am a cis-gendered Latinx bilingual woman.