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Is Your Therapist In Therapy? How to Choose a Good Counsellor

Deciding to see a therapist is a great decision. When choosing to do so, you’re choosing yourself – and to better your relationships and life by working through any hurdles you may have. However, if you’ve not been in therapy before, how do you choose a good counsellor?

RELATED: How to See a Therapist: A Complete Guide

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Image: SHVETS Production/Pexels

A good therapist is the right one for you. They should be warm and you should feel comfortable being vulnerable and in the room (or via Telehealth). Most therapists offer 10-15minute phone consults for free, where you can decide if they’re the kind of professional you can build a rapport with. Here’s what to ask in that chat so you can make an informed decision about your mental health.

Have You Worked with Clients with (Presenting Problem) Before?

This exploratory phone call is an opportunity for you to say why you want to seek support from a therapist. You don’t need to go into detail, but you can say that you need support with dealing with a death, or your romantic relationship, or managing anger, etc.

Once you have explained why you are seeking therapy, known as the ‘presenting problem’, ask your therapist if they’ve worked with clients with the same issue previously. This will help you understand if they can support you in achieving your goals.

What are Your Specialties?

There are a variety of therapeutic modalities counsellors and psychologists learn during their studies, with many choosing their preferred modality and focusing their practice on that. These can include cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, narrative therapy, grief counselling, acceptance and commitment therapy, somatic bodywork, and more. Depending on the client’s goals and needs, the therapist should be able to choose the model that works best to support them.

Some of these require ‘homework’ between sessions as well, so take that into account – are you the kind of person that will do their homework? If you’re unsure what each of these modalities mean, ask your therapist to explain and give you an example.

Where Do You Practise?

COVID-19 changed a lot for medical and mental health practitioners, with one of those being the chance to offer Telehealth consults to their clients. This makes therapy more accessible than ever, with you able to do it from the comfort of your own home and within hours that suit you.

Of course, most therapists still offer in-room sessions, out-of-private practices or specialist therapy businesses, or even via Employee Assistant Programs.  Knowing where your therapist practises will help you to understand if you’re able to stick with therapy by travelling to/from several sessions – often important to see results.

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Image: Anna Shvets/Pexels

What Availabilities Do You Have?

Once you know where your therapist practises, you can check when their next availability may be. Check with the therapist if they do evening sessions or weekend sessions, if that’s going to help you navigate around your professional schedule and family commitments.

As therapists, we’re aware that if a potential client is reaching out for an exploratory call, then they likely need support as soon as possible. As such, we’ll do all we can to get you in to our next available session time – and if we can’t, we’ll refer you to a colleague who can.

What are Your Fees and How are They Managed?

Each therapist has different fees, depending on where they practise, what length of sessions they offer (standard is 50mins), whether it’s Telehealth or in-room, their experience, their specialties, and more. Knowing what your therapist’s fees are before you commit will help you to manage ongoing therapy and see results.

If you get on with a therapist but feel their fees are not manageable long-term, consider asking them if they’re able to see you fortnightly instead of weekly, or monthly instead of fortnightly. Most therapists will be able to work with you to align on a structure that suits you, as it shows you’re willing to do the work.

Do You See a Therapist Yourself?

This question seems a little personal, though can be the best way to understand if your therapist practises what they preach. While this is a closed question (‘yes’ or ‘no’), you’ll be able to see that the therapist is committed to managing their own mental health – so they can be in the best place to support their clients.

About the Author: Tammi Miller is a certified practising counsellor, founder of BARE Therapy, and author of Paperback Therapy: Therapist-approved tools and advice for mastering your mental health. The Sydney-based professional is a Provisional Member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia, and received her training at the Australian College of Applied Psychology (ACAP) in 2020.