Questions to consider when choosing a therapist
My problem is _______. How would you go about treating that?
This is straightforward, but of course, you have to know what your problem is, and even describing symptoms will help. “My problems are insomnia, worry, and anger outbursts. How would you treat that?” The therapist's response will either resonate with your feelings or will make sense so you’re willing to adopt a new strategy. The most important thing is that therapists are able to describe their process in a way that you will understand it. If they present a flashy, jargon-filled approach that goes over your head, you can expect to feel similarly confused during therapy with them.
Some therapists are more comfortable addressing the immediate problem, while others want to focus on the deeper issue. Which are you?
Some therapists are more comfortable addressing the immediate problem, while others want to focus on the deeper issue. Which are you?Many cognitive-behavioral based therapies are focused on treating immediate symptoms, while deeper, psychodynamic-based therapies work directly on revealing the root causes of a problem. The preferred answer depends on your needs: If you need quick, immediate relief, you’ll gravitate to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), but if you’re willing to wait a while to reach a deeper insight, the psychodynamic theories are probably more your style. Again, the therapist’s ability to explain their approach is key here, even if they say they combine approaches.
Do you tend to lead the session, or follow my lead?Another key distinction is whether a therapist is “directive” or “non-directive,” which is jargon for a leader or follower. Some therapists have an agenda for your session before you sit down: An objective has been identified, and you become a passenger on a ride. Other therapists wait for you to set the agenda, either with a pre-determined topic or whatever comes up for you as soon as you sit down. Again, this is a matter of your personal comfort — directive appeals to some, while non-directive appeals to others.
What role does our relationship play in our work?Some therapists view therapy as a laboratory: The problems you experience in the outside world will come up between us, and that’s a great opportunity to do important work. For others, therapy is more of a lecture hall — a place where you learn tools and tips to apply outside the session. It’s good for you to know which you’re stepping into. If you want to learn to confront people and want to practice that with your therapist, you’ll want therapy to be a laboratory. If you want tips for managing OCD and just want therapy to be a resource for information and exercises, you’ll want the lecture.
What are your strengths as a therapist?Not many clients ask this question. By asking, you’re inviting the therapist to make an appraisal of their strongest attributes. At the same time asking them to point out what they believe is important, in relation to their own aspirations. This will allow you to feel certain that you and the therapist are directed at your recovery. Not their careeer standing.