Thanks to the expansive growth of online therapy, finding a good therapist to connect with over phone, text or videoconferencing has never been easier. But if you’re currently on the hunt for a licensed mental health professional to help you cope with a personal issue, it’s helpful to know which questions to ask so that you can feel confident you’re choosing the right provider for you.
Here are some guiding questions to ask any potential therapist, according to the pros like the American Psychological Association:
Not everyone who uses the title “therapist” or “psychotherapist” has a license to practice. But selecting a provider who is licensed can give you some valuable peace of mind.
For one thing, achieving licensure means the therapist has successfully completed at least the minimum-required certifications within their chosen field. This is a good indicator that the therapist has extensive training—much of it while under supervision of a more senior therapist. And while not every licensed mental health professional will be a perfect fit for you, licensure is a good standard by which to evaluate all potential candidates.
Choosing a licensed therapist also protects you in the event that something goes wrong during your care, since you’ll have official avenues for support (e.g., licensed therapists are required to carry malpractice insurance and abide by HIPAA privacy regulations, which grants you legal recourse if your confidentiality is breached, accidentally or otherwise).
So, don’t be shy about asking if your therapist is licensed—or do a little digging and verifying for yourself. For example, if you’re starting online therapy in New York state, you can visit the state’s Office of Professions website and run a simple search.
When inquiring about the therapist’s licensure, you can also ask them about how many years they’ve been practicing and whether they have any special qualifications or certifications. This may give you some more information about whether they’ll be a good match for your goals and personal preference.
Find out whether your therapist has any specific areas of expertise, especially in any areas that relate to your primary concerns. Therapists often choose to focus on specific health conditions, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or bipolar disorder, or they may work primarily with specific populations, including children, couples, families, or individuals who have experienced sexual trauma or abuse.
The good thing about working with a therapist who specializes in a topic relevant to your needs is that he or she will likely be more up-to-date on the latest evidence-based treatments that can help you.
Is your therapist trained in any particular type of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or attachment-based therapy? Does he or she utilize any evidence-based techniques to enhance patient care, such as biofeedback training or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)?
Asking about what type of treatment he or she frequently uses gives you an idea of how knowledgeable your therapist is and what to expect during your plan of care.
Knowing how much you’ll pay for your online therapy is important—you don’t want any surprise financial stresses throwing you off from the progress you’re making in therapy.
So, find out early on whether your therapist accepts your insurance plan (you might want to ask your insurance provider this, too). If not, find out how much a typical session costs and how long it lasts. Many online therapy platforms offer subscription-based services that are as or even more affordable than in-person visits.
License, credentials, experience, and costs aside, you also need to make sure you feel comfortable with your therapist. This isn’t always something you can easily put your finger on either—you might simply have a hunch that this person is (or isn’t) a good fit for you.
Don’t feel bad about trusting your gut. Good therapists agree that a healthy and trusting rapport is essential between therapists and clients in order to ensure optimal outcomes. It might take you a session or two with one therapist before realizing it’s time to try someone else. This is perfectly okay—and it’s also one of the biggest bonuses of online therapy. Instead of spending time and gas money driving from office to office, you can simply schedule and attend appointments for online therapy in New York without ever leaving your home.
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