Questions to Ask a Therapist Ahead of Your First Session

How to find the right fit when you’re looking for a new therapist
Medically Reviewed by
Dr Hamilton
A woman looks off into the distance, thinking about what she wants out of a therapist relationship
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Finding a good therapist can be daunting — it’s a little bit like job-hunting, dating, and house-hunting all rolled into one. Before you even start, it’s a good idea to sort out your ideal therapist’s qualities to help you narrow the search.

You probably want someone in your area who treats the kinds of symptoms you’re dealing with, whose schedule works with yours, who’s taking new patients, and who either takes your insurance or is affordable out of pocket, and those are just the logistical considerations.

Even more daunting are the less concrete assessments you’ll need to make — the vibes. Would you feel more comfortable with a therapist whose gender or background mirrors your own? Do you need someone who can prescribe medications or someone who understands your particular religious affiliation? How can you tell if this person will ‘get’ you, so you don’t waste a bunch of time and money trying out one therapist after another?

It’s not always easy to find a therapist who fits your needs, but preparation can help. Once you know what you’re looking for, we’ve got some questions for you to ask prospective therapists to help you figure out the best match for you.

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What to ask a therapist before your first appointment

At this stage, you’ve narrowed down your search and you’re planning to make some calls. Most therapists offer to do a brief call with prospective patients, around 15 or 20 minutes, to gauge whether the fit is right. Don’t be afraid to ask for this if the therapist doesn’t suggest it first.

Some of the questions you might ask a potential therapist on this call include:

  • Which insurance companies (if any) do you work with? This is one of those ‘boring’ questions that are really important. Therapy can be really expensive, and making sure your therapy sessions are at least partly covered by insurance is one way to ensure it’s financially sustainable. 
  • How much does each session cost, and do you offer a sliding scale for session fees? If you don’t have insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover therapy, don’t be afraid to ask about lower prices based on income bracket — many therapists offer this.
  • What types of treatment do you normally employ with your patients? There are various approaches to therapy, and every mental health professional has their preferences. It’s important that your therapist uses evidence-based therapy techniques that fit your needs. For example, if you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, your therapist might suggest cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which has been proven to be the most effective therapy for those issues.
  • How do you assess patients’ needs and work with them to set goals for treatment? Therapy is about growth — even though it’s unlikely to be linear, you should have goals in mind, both short-term and long-term, and your therapist should help you define and work toward those goals. 
  • What’s your experience with my symptoms? Ideally, you want a therapist who’s successfully treated symptoms like yours before. Experts in anxiety and depression will likely have a very different level of experience with those concerns from therapists who’ve worked mostly with more serious mental health issues, and the types of therapy they employ may differ too.
  • Do you work with a prescribing physician? This is a question for those patients who think they might need or want medical advice about managing their symptoms — it won’t apply to everyone. But if you do feel like you might need medication, make sure your therapist can facilitate that.

There are a variety of other questions you can ask, about things like licensing and education, session length and scheduling, and whether sessions can be virtual as well as in-person. But remember that this initial call will likely be brief, so try to focus on questions that aren’t as easily answered on the provider’s website or over email.

Once you’ve chosen a therapist and set up your first appointment, you might begin to worry about what you’ll say in that initial session. Especially if you haven’t been to therapy before, this is a new therapist for you, or it’s been a long time since you were in therapy, it can be difficult to know where to begin summing up your whole life or the issues you may have been dealing with for years.

Don’t worry — the right therapist will be able to lead you with some guiding questions. Yes, the first time you meet can be a bit awkward, but as the relationship deepens, your sessions will likely begin organically. 

If you’re ready to get started with therapy that’s structured, goal-based, and proven to be effective for anxiety and depression, why not give Youper a try? Our caring providers will really listen to you, and our 24/7 therapy chat is available to support you whenever you need it.

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