The Right Fit: Tips to Make the Most of Your Therapist Consultation
Choosing a therapist can be a daunting process. With so many options to pick from, it is understandably overwhelming to set out to select someone that will feel like the “right fit” to support you with your personal growth and mental health goals.
The free consultation can improve the process of choosing a counsellor. Consultations provide the opportunity to connect with a potential therapist (or therapists) before committing to moving forward with a full appointment. Through discussions with clients, colleagues, friends, and acquaintances, I’ve found that while many are glad that consultations are available to them, there is sometimes uncertainty about how this time can best be used. To help address that difficulty, I’d like to offer a few suggestions regarding points to discuss during therapist consultations.
Tip 1: Be prepared to communicate (briefly) the main reasons why you are seeking counselling at this time. This will allow your prospective therapist to give you an idea of how they might approach your work together, and if they have the appropriate skills, training, and experience necessary to help you.
Tip 2: Share specifics of your situation or needs that may be relevant to your therapy. These are key to discuss in a consultation because not all therapists are qualified to provide all types of services. Here are some examples: Are you looking for an assessment or a diagnosis of a mental health condition? Is a third party (i.e., an employer or court) requiring you to attend counselling, and/ or will you require a report or other documentation? Do you have demographic characteristics that are pertinent to your therapy (i.e., culture, religion, sexual orientation, age) that you would like your therapist to be familiar or experienced with?
Tip 3: Discuss the practical details of therapy. If this will be your first time in counselling, it can be very helpful to get some information about what the process looks like and what to expect. Even if you have been to therapy previously, some details to review include: frequency and length of appointments; insurance coverage/therapist credentials required, billing procedures, and fees; and desired format of counselling (video, phone, and in-person sessions may be offered, each of which can have pros and cons depending on your circumstances). With virtual counselling being much more widely available, it is vital for your counsellor to know where you are physically located to make sure they are legally and ethically able to work with you.
Tip 4: I saved this one for last but I’d like to emphasize it the most: pay attention to your level of comfort during your consult with your potential therapist, and be yourself during your meeting. The changes and self-understanding people seek in counselling generally require tolerating, at least at times, a certain amount of discomfort. A central factor in the effectiveness of therapy is the quality of the relationship between the therapist and client. So, trust your instincts to give you some information about whether your prospective therapist is someone you can see sitting with you in difficult, uncomfortable moments and creating an environment of safety and acceptance.
Hopefully, you now feel more prepared to use your therapist consultation to find someone who is a good fit for you. A final note: if you feel unsure during the conversation, that is okay. Your potential therapist is responsible for steering the conversation to the places they think it would be helpful to go.
Davita Mann, MC, is a Registered Psychologist and is experienced in the areas of disordered eating and intimate relationships, as well as many others. For more information on Jodie and her work click here to link to her full bio page.