Starting to look for a mental health professional for yourself or an adolescent can seem overwhelming at first. First, the basics – a great resource that can help you search for a therapist based on what insurance you have, where you live, whether they see adolescents, what kinds of symptoms they treat or therapies they practice is the find a therapist link at psychologytoday.com. A doctor or your insurance may refer or suggest someone to you, but it is important to know that you or your adolescent have rights in this process, and should be able to ask questions and feel comfortable with the professional who will be working with you.
The truth is, even if a therapist is referred to you and seems to have all the right credentials, sometimes they just aren’t a good match for other reasons. Just like a doctor, dentist, or specialist you have the right to look around, ask questions, and switch professional if something does not feel right. We ask for second opinions on diagnosis, think long and hard before surgery, and shop around for Primary Care doctors, but sometimes people feel they have to take the first therapist they come across.
Here are some suggestions and questions to ask the therapist that can help increase the chances you find a mental health ally that matches you. If you are looking for your adolescent, sit down with them and talk about these questions. Let your adolescent know they have a right to see someone they feel comfortable with, and it’s normal to look around and ask a lot of questions before deciding on any health professional.
- Most importantly, what is your gut feeling? How does it feel to sit with or talk with this person? Some others initial things to note: What is their body language? Do they seem engaged with what you are telling them? Do you feel defensive or like this person is on your side?
- Ask the professional what their general philosophy or approach to therapy is. Write down the answer and look the therapy approach later – is it something that has been found to be effective? Does it emphasize strengths? A therapist should have a foundation they practice from, and a vague answer to this question is a red flag!
- Ask the professional what improvements you can expect to see and how often you would work together.
- Ask the professional how they keep track of improvements and goal settings. Mental health therapy is meant to help you meet goals you set with the professional, it should not be a time each week to chit chat for the next twenty years!
- Ask the professional if they have worked with people who are similar to you. If you are an adolescent with anxiety, and the therapist has worked almost exclusively with adults – they may not be a good fit! Mental health professionals have “specialties” just like doctors.
- If you know you’re going to have trouble with insurance or co-pays be sure to bring this up at the beginning! Many mental health professionals have sliding scale fees and are willing to work something out. Talking about it at the beginning can help prevent any lapse in service later on.
It can take time to find a therapist you feel comfortable with, so don’t get discouraged! There are many wonderful therapists out there, and professionals are fully aware that they won’t be a perfect match with everyone who calls or is referred. Remind yourself or your teen that this is your mental health and your life and well-being!
Do you have any other suggestions for questions to ask a new therapist? Let us know if these suggestions were helpful in the comments!