A couple of blog posts ago, I gave some tips for finding an ideal therapist in Boulder, CO. I hope it helped you narrow down your list from the thousands of therapists available in Boulder to a few who seem worth looking into further. All of them offer some kind of consultation to see if you are a good fit. But what should you ask? What should you tell them about yourself? What is appropriate at this stage?
It can be tough enough to talk about the things that we need help with in our lives, without having to do it with a stranger. Especially a stranger we’re thinking about making a big investment of time and money with. Let me help by giving you a few tips about things that are generally helpful to mention in an initial consultation with a new therapist:
- Be ready to give a quick (1 or 2 sentence) summary of why you are seeking help. If you are not yet comfortable describing very personal issues or experiences with a new person, you can be general. For example, someone seeking help to cope with a sexual assault might say something like, “I had a really bad experience a few months ago, and now I’m having trouble with lots of things that used to be no big deal for me.”
- “What are your specialties?” Most therapists have focused their training and expertise on specific issues (anxiety, trauma, depression, etc.) and approaches (mindfulness, psychoanalysis, EMDR, etc.). You will want to make sure that your therapist is well qualified to provide the services they describe, and experienced in the particular issues that bring you to therapy.
- “How would you work with the problems I’ve described?” Make sure the therapist knows how they would try to help you, and that the approach they describe sounds like something that you think would fit well for you.
- “How much experience do you have with these types of problems?” You may want to get a sense for whether the therapist is newly licensed or graduated, or has had many years of experience working with clients like you.
- “What am I expected to do in therapy with you?” You may find it helpful to talk about what the therapists’ expectations are for your role in the process. For example, do they provide homework? Will they direct the sessions, or wait for you to bring things up?
- “What are your fees? Do you take my insurance?” You may want to have a conversation about finances, if your finances are limited. Fees vary from therapist to therapist. You may want to review your health insurance policy before calling therapists, to find out whether what it covers. During your consultation, you may want to ask whether the therapist accepts your insurance (fewer therapists contract with insurance companies all the time, as contract fees progressively decline), and whether they can provide a receipt you can submit for reimbursement of out-of-network services. Some therapists offer sliding scale fees for disadvantaged clients, and those that don’t may be able to refer you to qualified providers with lower fees or sliding scale fees.
- How do you feel when talking to the therapist? The most important thing in choosing a therapist, is how comfortable you feel talking to that person. When speaking with a skilled and talented therapist who is a good match for you, you should feel hopeful and relatively at ease.
After you’ve asked your questions, and listened to what the therapist has said, my final advice is to go with your gut. As Dr. Joyce Brothers once said, “Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.”
Good luck with your search for a great therapist in Boulder. Please let me know whether these ideas helped. And please share other tips that have helped you.
If you are still feeling stuck, feel free to call me at (720) 340-6261 for a free 20-minute phone consultation. I’d be happy to hear about what is happening and help direct you to the right person. If you are looking for help with big emotions like worry or shame, or help coping with bad experiences like rape or cancer, you can read more about how I can help here.