You will invest a lot of emotional labor in this connection — not to mention, time and money, and general effort. This makes it absolutely essential to prepare in advance for your free consultation.
1. Background Basics
You will want to know all about their education, degree, and subsequent training. Clarify whether or not they are a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, etc. For the record, you will want to see someone who has a license and not just a “certification.”
From here, it would be natural to segue into a discussion of their experience. This conversation should cover their overall, general experience. But you’ll also want to inquire about their experience and comfort working with someone like you, e.g.
- Specific conditions and concerns
- Age, race, sex, and other details about who you are
- Sexual orientation and issues often related to this identification
Frequently, areas like cost, insurance, and general rules can play a big role. It’s helpful to get the following details out in the open before going too far into the consultation. So, go ahead and come right out and ask:
- How much do you charge per session?
- How long is each session?
- Which insurance (if any) is accepted?
- Do you have reduced-fee slots?
- Are sessions in-person or virtual or a combination of both?
- What if I have a crisis in between sessions? Can I contact you?
- What if I need to cancel? What’s your standard policy?
- What is your general availability?
Once you’ve shared a little about your situation or possible disorder, it makes sense to zero in on their treatment approach. For example:
- What approach would you initially use for me and why?
- How often would you expect to see me?
- Have you worked with clients with similar needs as me? How often? How recently? And how did that go?
- Based on this initial conversation, do you feel like you are a good match for me and my needs?
4. What do you feel are your strengths and limitations as a therapist?
Here’s where we move more deeply into the interview process. Remember, you will have intense, profound, and very private conversations with this counselor. It can’t hurt to start learning more about them as a person.
5. Have you been in therapy yourself? If so, when?
This is not required but some folks feel more comfortable working with a counselor who has or still is going through their own therapy process.
6. Generally speaking, do you engage with clients directly or do you serve as more of a guide?
You want to get a basic idea of what the sessions feel like and if they would work for you. Do you need direction and homework? If so, let them know right away.
7. Do you have an “ideal patient” and if so, can you describe what that means to you?
As your free consultation begins to wind down, you may want to end with something like this. Therapists work with a vast array of personalities and issues. However, they are human — first and foremost. This means they have preferences and you deserve to know those preferences.
All that’s left to do is to set up the consultation!