Things to ask your therapist during your first therapy session
Doing some research and planning before your session can help give you a sense of calm and help you work out if the therapist is going to be a good fit for you and your goals/ needs for therapy.
Finding the right professional or professionals and finding the right kind of treatment and support is a fine balance. What has worked well for someone else may not work for you. It’s important to keep in mind there are many different techniques therapists use and they can all offer different benefits.
This is something you and your therapist might discuss in your early sessions, to work out if the approaches they use are helpful for the reasons that brought you to therapy. Therapy is, at its core, a collaborative process and you both need to feel like it’s a good fit.
Below are our top 9 questions to ask your therapist to help you navigate those first few sessions.
1. What are your fees and cancellation policy?
Often therapists do not advertise their session costs or availability online. You will need to ask about this when booking your appointment. This may be covered in your initial phone call or intake session, you may also be provided with information about this in writing via a confirmation email or online form to complete. It’s important you understand the fee structure, any medicare rebates or insurance rebates, and any limitations to this. For example, couple counselling isn’t covered through medicare or additional documentation or report writing might come at a cost. It’s Important you understand the financial costs associated with this. Asking about cancellation fees, how much notice you have to give are also important as these policies can vary from practice to practice. Rebates are not available for missed sessions so you may end up paying the full fee if you don’t attend and give sufficient notice to your therapist,
2. What training did you do?
If your therapist is providing medicare rebates then they have met the criteria for registration. This is a good thing, it means they have completed suitable tertiary education, ongoing professional development and registered with a reputable registering body as either a Mental Health Social Worker, Occupational Therapist or Psychologist. There are also many qualified and highly skilled therapists and counsellors who are registered with other providers such as PACFA or ACA. It’s important to know if your therapist is qualified and can support your needs.It’s also good to know where you can go to make a complaint if the need arises.
3. What Kind Of Therapy Do You Offer?
Some therapies, such as cognitive behavioural based therapies (CBT) , can be more focused on immediate issues. Things like treating symptoms or anxiety by looking at how our thoughts and feelings impact our actions. This type of therapy often includes tracking behaviour and thoughts and having exercises to practice in the real world.
Therapies like Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) can be great for treating trauma and other negative life experiences, often therapists use a treatment like this in conjunction with other tools and techniques.
Other models of therapy can be longer term and rely on developing a strong relationship with your therapist. These therapists focused on the root causes of immediate problems, often exploring patterns of behaviour from your past and even looking back into your childhood. These therapies create change by supporting you to develop deeper insight into oneself.
The kinds of therapy offered varied greatly between professionals. If this feels a little overwhelming, that’s ok. You can always ask your therapist in your first session how they feel they can help you and what approaches they would suggest.
4. How Will I Know We’re A Good Fit?” Do you have experience working with others who are in similar circumstances?
This may emerge through your conversation in the first few sessions. You may want a therapist who is comfortable working with certain lifestyle choices, certain jobs, or religious or political ideologies, it’s ok to ask about these. You need to feel comfortable with your therapist.
It’s ok to ask your therapist if they feel they have the skills and experience to support you with the issues or concerns you have brought to therapy. If they refer you to someone else this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it means they are committed to supporting you to get to the right person for your needs.
5. What will Therapy look like moving forward?
Once you have had a chance to discuss all the things mentioned above, you should have a chat with your therapist about what the plan is moving forward, do they think you need a twice-weekly session? Weekly? Once a month? Having some clarity around this can help with managing expectations, progress and making sure you have the time and finances to commit to the process.
6. Can You Help Me Create Some Goals?
Therapists often ask you what’s brought you to therapy, or what would you like to get out of therapy. This can be a difficult question for some people to articulare. That’s totally ok. It’s OK if you don’t have any goals. That’s where this question can come in handy.
7. Can I reach you in between sessions?
Can you call or email in between sessions, do you have to speak with an admin person or receptionist? How can you get in touch for an urgent appointment? Having a chat about this could be really helpful so you can have clear ideas of your therapist’s response time and availability to communicate in between sessions.
8. What can I do in between sessions?
Therapy is not just in the session. To get the most out of your sessions you need to do ‘work’ outside of the sessions.
Like going to a personal trainer, in between PT’s sessions you will need to watch your diet, stick to your plan and keep exercising, doing your stretches etc. Therapy is work, the work looks different for different people. By doing your therapy homework, you’re enabling yourself to adopt new coping tools and strategies. It can be journaling, trying new things outside of your comfort zone, reading books or resources, listening to podcasts.
You should absolutely feel be asking your therapist for resources and ‘homework’ that works for you
9. How do you think I’m doing?
It’s good to ask in the first few sessions for feedback on how your therapist thinks things are going between you and if you’re working on the right things. Asking them for feedback or new insights can be really helpful.
What if after all this it still doesn’t feel right?
Check out our blog post I saw a professional for help for my mental health but it didn’t work – what do I do next? For some additional tips and strategies.