Five Great (and Provocative!) Things to Ask a Therapist Before Starting Therapy
I have recently had a significant influx of women calling me inquiring about therapy. Upon speaking with them it’s clear in their voice and apprehension that so much both emotionally and circumstantially has led up to this call.
No, I can’t do this on my own one moment longer.
Yes, I’m ready to do my own work.
Yes, I’m ready to invest in my life.
Yes, I’m terrified out of mind.
Yes, I think you may scare me just a little bit.
Yes, being scared is worth my life being better.
Additionally, many of these women have done some serious homework. They have looked me up online and learned that I want to help them. They have read over a hundred “7 Tips to a Better ___________” articles, and realize those don’t work. They have identified what they want changed for themselves. And, they are ready to ask questions by the time we speak on the phone.
One recent question I got during an intake call was about my credentials. She wanted to know about my qualifications, and I casually responded with my shortened CV. But this got me thinking – what information about therapy can authentically and accurately lay out what one should truly expect to experience in therapy with me?
And, I knew the answer was not about intelligence or academics.
Therapy is about whole-hearted connection. It’s about heart and relationship. It’s about confronting our epidemic of aloneness.
About a year ago, I decided to start asking very personal questions to my therapist. We had been together awhile, and I wanted to mix things up (and watch him squirm a bit, too). But, I also wanted to practice out true intimacy and connection beyond me “talking at him”. I started seeing this transfer into my own practice, until lo and behold, almost all of my clients began challenging me in this same manner. I knew the phenomenon was bigger than me; it was about me sitting comfortably in vulnerability and connectedness on both sides of the therapy room. It was about wanting more for my clients – eager to live out in session their new reality of both of us being worth it in everyway.
For those starting out, this may seem like absolute crazy making. But, if you’re feeling ready for therapy, and would like to ask your potential therapist some questions first, here are some questions to consider. These are the kind of questions that clarify potential for a connecting relationship between the both of you.
Do you go to your own therapy?
Having a therapist in her own therapy does not mean she is riddled with current “issues” (though you never know!); it typically means she is invested in currently growing. She wants to wrestle alongside you and activate her potential so there is more for you in your own therapeutic work.
**Note: I did share this in a private social media group for therapists, and many felt uncomfortable about answering this during an intake call. Their reasoning is that good therapists always return to the question, “how is self-disclosure helpful to this client?”, and there is typically not enough information during the first call to answer this client-protecting question. Ask if you wish, but be prepared for hesitation, or a request to explore the healing dynamics of your relationship in person.
What brings you most joy with seeing clients?
This question will help you get a pulse on how your therapist is liking her job. Being a therapist is not for everybody, and those who are not initiating ongoing self-care will not be able to answer this question authentically. Make sure your therapist has enough within to give to you!
What can I do about feeling (insert emotion) about therapy?
Whether it is shame, anxiety, or apprehension, sharing a vulnerability right off the bat will help you gauge if this therapist is able to attune to you, and provide some comfort or answers to your feeling. The idea of therapy is that we make the vulnerable parts of ourselves, well, less vulnerable by speaking about them. If you feel missed in this you may not feel comfortable sharing further.
What do you think would be most difficult about helping me?
This question reminds everybody that both the therapist and the client are both imperfect, fallible people. Though your therapist should be an expert, she still struggles and makes mistakes! Having a therapist who is comfortable with her weaknesses can invite humanness and relatedness into your relationship.
Can you share about a thriving relationship in your life and how you made that happen?
This question is tricky and personal, and many therapists may not want to answer this until meeting in person because of clinical implications about helping you. However, it’s worth a try. It may be nice to know that the therapist has practiced out and succeeded in the tools she will be challenging your life with. The hope is that this question can set the tone and vision of what you are wanting with your own treatment goals.
I hope this helps you! And, of course, I challenge you to reach out to me and just ask. I’ll do my best.