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Therapist Consultations: How to use the them effectively and find the right match

Do you know what is the greatest predictor of a good outcome in therapy? It's the relationship a client has with their therapist. Studies have shown that a positive relationship with solid rapport and trust is the greatest predictor of a positive therapeutic outcome. Finding the right therapist for YOU is imperative. Different therapists have different styles and strengths just like different clients have different needs. But how do you find the right therapist for you? Simple - a complimentary consultation.

Therapists in private practice often offer a complimentary consultation, usually around 15 min, where you can talk to the therapist before deciding to move forward and start therapy. Not all therapists offer this, and some will offer something slightly different (such as answering questions via email instead), but for those whose schedule allows them to do so, they often do. Many clients don't know how to approach these consultations, which could lead them to feeling more confused and unsure if the therapist is the right fit at the end of a consultation. Below I provide 5 tips to approach consultations so you walk away feeling a little more confident in deciding if a potential therapist might be a good fit for you.

1. Ask about credentials/treatment modalities

In order to be a licensed therapist, basic requirements need to be met. For instance, I graduated with a masters degree in clinical psychology from a state (California) accredited masters program. Then I completed the requirements to receive a state license that I have to renew every two years while completing my continuing education requirements. I also have further training though. I've been trained in EMDR and am a Beck Certified CBT Clinician. Asking about a therapists credentials gives you more of an idea of what to expect in therapy.

As far as experience, I've worked in community mental health and various treatment programs including residential programs, partial hospitalization programs, intensive outpatient programs, as well as private practice. I utilize several treatment modalities including CBT, DBT, mindfulness, person centered, and humanistic based on need and can detail more about therapeutic theory if asked in a consultation. Remember, a consultation is meant to talk in broader terms about expertise, treatment, and the therapist's approach, and then when you start therapy during the initial sessions it becomes much more tailored.

2. Ask if they treat issues that you would like to work on in therapy

There are so many areas a therapist can specialize in, and making sure the therapist you're thinking of seeing specializes in what you want to work on can be extremely helpful. And if for any reason the therapist feels like the wrong match because of this, you can always ask if the therapist knows of any other therapists specializing in what you want to work on.

3. Ask about scheduling and fees

It's required by law that a therapist discloses their fees prior to starting treatment. So if they haven't already shared that information, a consultation is a good time to ask. Also, as far as scheduling, a lot of therapists have office hours that are outside the 8-5 Monday thru Friday, but not all do, so it's also a good time to ask about scheduling and office hours. If you find a therapist you feel is a great match but doesn't have availability when you have availability or isn't in your price range, that can be incredibly frustrating, so asking these things early can be helpful.

4. Share goals and ask how they measure success of treatment

Sharing briefly about what you want to get out of therapy can be helpful in a consultation. Now, you also may not exactly know this - and that's ok! Often times people might be seeking treatment to alleviate symptoms and/or feel better, and you can simply share that in a consultation. Asking how a therapist measures results can be helpful too, so you know what to expect. A therapist can't guarantee results of course, but they may say they use a questionnaire to measure progress or some other tool. For example, I use tools such as the Y-BOCS to measure treatment progress for OCD and the Beck Depression Inventory to measure progress with mood.

5. Ask if there's anything else the therapist would like you to know

This is a question I find value in because it opens up the conversation to get an answer for a question you may not be thinking of asking. Or, you can ask a question to the therapist like "If the you were the client, would there be any other questions you'd be asking in this consultation?"

Consultations can be a valuable tool in informing which therapist might be a good fit for you. These 5 tips can give you an idea of a therapist's credentials and specializations, if their expertise is what you're looking for, and what goal setting might look like in therapy. Feel free to add to these 5 tips, but this will get you started to making a consultation a production tool to find a therapist that's right for you.

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