08 Mar What to Ask During a Consultation
The consultation is a short and free phone call, approximately 15 minutes. This brief meet and greet is a great way to determine if a therapist will be a good fit for you.
For the most part, consultations are informal and a way to get to know each other. It’s an opportunity for the therapist to get a sense of what your presenting challenge is or why you are seeking therapy. A therapist has an ethical duty to refer you to other therapists if they don’t feel as though they have the competency (i.e., skills, knowledge, etc.) to effectively work with you to meet your goals.
Therapy and/or treatment does not take place during the consultation. The “work” begins when the first full session is booked, after the consultation. Instead, the consultation is a great opportunity for you to ask any questions that you may have about payment, schedules or the therapist’s competency with your presenting challenge(s) (e.g., client experience, education, therapeutic style and tools, and how they may approach treatment given your goals for seeking therapy).
What Questions Should I Consider Asking?
The consultation is not solely about the therapist providing you with their ideas for a treatment plan. You’ll need to consider whether you feel as though you are able to open up to them fully. We’ve created a list of questions to help with figuring this out! Keep reading to check it out ⬇
You won’t have time during the consultation to ask each and every one of the questions below, and there are likely questions you will also come up with that are specific to your lived experiences or what you are looking for in a therapist. In this case, it might help to select only those questions from the list that feel most important to you and/or to bring other questions to the consultation that may help you with deciphering whether this therapist could be a good fit, that is, that you’ll be able to be completely honest and transparent with them during your sessions.
Some of these questions may also already be included in the therapist’s online bio. Feel free to research the therapists you’re interested in working with first, to see if you can find this information before bringing it up during your brief call.
Click on the links below for examples!
- Where did you go to school and what did you study/Do you specialize in the challenges I am facing?
- How are you qualified to treat my problem?
- How are you a specialist in this area?
- Have you supported others like myself? If so, what was the outcome in those cases?
- What types of treatment styles would you consider using during our time together?
- How important is it for you to know about my past, my family, my relationships?
- Who will be talking more, you or me?
- Are you confrontational in your therapeutic style?
- Will you provide me with homework or assignments?
- Have you personally experienced the challenges I am facing, and how do you believe that will impact our sessions?
- How long have you been in practice?
- How often should I plan to see you?
- How many sessions do you believe it will take to reach my goals?
- How much will each session cost and do you offer direct billing to my extended health insurance provider?
- What is your cancellation policy?
- How will I know if our time together is working?
- Do you feel as though I could be a good fit?
- Is there any reason you feel I should consider finding another therapist and if so, could you provide me with a few referrals to reach out to?
It is important to keep in mind that most of the health profession is predominantly made up of people who experience the most privilege. If you’re a person who experiences discrimination or society in a different way, such as a person of colour, a person who is part of the LGBTQI2S+ communities, an immigrant to Canada, etc., you will want to ask as many questions as possible in order to understand whether the therapist is culturally competent or sensitive to your unique needs. For example:
- Have you worked with someone like me before/what are your experiences with my identity and/or culture?
- What work have you done to learn more about my identity/cultural experiences?
- How are you continuing to learn about my identity/cultural experiences?
- Are you currently aware of the political events and the issues that I face?
- Do you operate from a racial justice and/or sexual and gender inclusive framework?
- Do you believe that we will be able to build a rapport based on trust, why or why not?
- Would you feel comfortable with me discussing the oppressions and discrimination I have experienced by those who you may identify or associate with?
- Do you receive a consultation with supervisors or other therapists who identify similarly to myself or share my cultural experiences?
How do I know if a Therapist is a Good Fit?
The fit is really important. Research has shown that a positive rapport between the therapist and client leads to greater treatment success and positive outcomes for the client. CLICK HERE to read more.
If this is your first time seeking out therapy, try booking a free consultation with multiple therapists, that way you can really compare and contrast who is going to be the best fit for you. When shopping for a therapist, it helps to make a shortlist (e.g., your top 3). Select those who you feel could be the most supportive, given the reason you are seeking therapy. The majority of therapists are happy to set up an initial consultation to determine fit.
During and after your consultation, you’ll want to reflect on how the meeting went. Check in with yourself to make sure that you actually want to move forward with the therapist. Here are some more questions to reflect on, to help with the decision-making process.
- Do I feel safe being vulnerable or authentic with this therapist?
- Do I feel as though I could trust this therapist?
- Do I feel comfortable with their body language and/or communication style?
- Do I feel heard or understood?
- Does this therapist seem knowledgeable and are they able to share their thoughts clearly/am I understanding them?
- Do I enjoy spending time with them or do I want to continue talking to them?
- Do I feel engaged?
- Does this therapist seem empathetic and compassionate?
- Does this therapist seem like my ally?
- Do our schedules align?
- How often are they able to fit me into their schedule (e.g., bi-weekly or monthly) and does this align with my own timelines for achieving my goals?
- Are the services offered by this therapist covered by my extended health benefits plan or provider?
- Are there any barriers or hurdles to booking appointments with them?
If you answer “no” to most of these questions, or if you don’t have a good gut feeling overall, then continue to hold consultations with other therapists until you do. However, if you keep feeling uncomfortable, even after speaking with multiple therapists, then there may be more to check in on. Therapy, in general, can bring up nervousness or anxiety, especially if you have never seen a therapist before. It’s important to identify this feeling and acknowledge that it may not go away for at least the first 3 sessions until you develop a rapport with a therapist.
Sometimes, the therapist that we really want to work with is very much sought after and will have a waitlist for new clients. When meeting during the consultation, ask the therapist how long they estimate before you will be able to meet. Given the estimation, you will be able to determine whether you would like to be added to their waitlist for when an appointment becomes available. If you decide that you need more immediate support, you may request referrals to other local therapists who may or may not have more immediate availability. Otherwise, if you decide to take a seat on the waitlist, just remember that there is no guarantee that a spot with this therapist will become available within that time period. It is very difficult to determine the wait period as it depends on a few variables. For instance, it’s not always known as to how long it could take for the therapist and their current clients to complete their work together.
Once you have found the therapist you would like to work with and they do have availability to see you, the next step is to book your first three to four sessions. Booking multiple sessions at one time is often recommended during times when schedules are getting full. Most therapists, or clinics, really want to ensure that you are seeing your therapist whenever it works best for your schedule and your needs. However, there are certain therapists who are sought after for their unique expertise, times of the year, or even social events and climates (e.g., COVID-19) that will impact whether you will be able to book a session when you want or need it. So, our thinking is, why not book a block of appointments at once and then cancel and/or reschedule them (as per the cancellation policy!), as needed.
The last things you may be asked to do before you have your first session will be to review and/or complete any important documents prior to your scheduled appointment time. For instance, you may be requested to review the therapist’s General Treatment Contract, to complete a more in-depth intake form or assessment, to review instructions or a troubleshooting guide for conducting Remote Psychotherapy, or to complete a COVID-19 Screener.
From there you may only need to prepare yourself for what to expect from the first session. CLICK HERE to learn more.
At Bliss Counselling + Psychotherapy, providing tailored services is our specialty! Regardless of the challenge(s) you are facing, our therapists will use a variety of psychotherapy and counselling approaches to ensure you receive the support you need.
If you need some extra support with shortlisting therapists or are interested in booking a consultation with any one of our Bliss therapists, CLICK HERE or give us a call: 226-647-6000.
Our admin team will be happy to narrow down the options and to support you in finding a therapist who could be the best fit!
Written by: Jess Boulé, Pronouns: they, them, theirs
Jess is our Clinic Manager at Bliss Counselling.
Jess is a Master’s graduate from the University of Guelph. During their degree, they focused on aging and end-of-life, human sexuality, the health and social experiences of LGBTQI2S+ people and communities, and evidence-based communication & teaching. Jess conducted research in order to inform more inclusive policies & practices, knowledge translation & mobilization, and business & program evaluation.